'Healthy headache' Pant in India's World Cup reckoning

Published : 11:03, Feb 12, 2019 | Updated : 11:09, Feb 12, 2019

India`s Rishabh Pant celebrates his century against England at Kia Oval, London, Britain on Sept 11, 2018. Reuters/File PhotoRishabh Pant's form is a "healthy headache" for India who are contemplating playing the 21-year-old wicketkeeper as a specialist batsman at this year's World Cup, chief selector M.S.K. Prasad has said.

The Twenty20 series in New Zealand illustrated India's problem of plenty behind the stumps with Mahendra Singh Dhoni keeping while fellow glovesmen Dinesh Karthik and Pant played as pure batsmen.

Even though his batting prowess has been on the wane, Dhoni's sharp glovework makes him India's first choice wicketkeeper in limited-overs cricket, while Karthik seems to have transformed himself into a fluent lower order batsman who can also float in the batting order.

Pant has played only three one-day internationals but his six-hitting prowess and stellar performance in India's breakthrough test series victory in Australia make him difficult to ignore as India chase their third 50-overs World Cup title in England.

"Undoubtedly he (Pant) is in contention," Prasad told ESPNcricinfo. "A healthy headache. The progression of Rishabh in the last one year is phenomenal across the formats.

"What we actually felt is he needs a bit of maturity now, gain more experience. That is the reason we have included him in India A series wherever possible."

All-rounder Vijay Shankar also gave a good account of himself both in the one-day and Twenty20 series in New Zealand to stake his claim to be part of the 20-player pool from which India would pick their final 15.

"In whatever opportunities he has got, Vijay Shankar has shown the skillsets required at this level," Prasad said of the 28-year-old middle order batsman who bowls medium pace.

"We have been grooming him through India A tours in the last two years. But we will have to see where he can fit in the dynamics of this team."

India begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa at Southampton on June 5.