Readers’ poll: Rookies Nitish Rana, Rishabh Pant favourites for Champions Trophy.
Mumbai Indians batsman Nitish Rana is one of the favourites to be among the new faces for India’s one-day international squad for the Champions Trophy in June, according to an online readers’ poll conducted by The Hindu. Rishabh Pant, another youngster who has also made waves like Rana in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL), is favoured to be the second wicketkeeper. Veteran batsman Gautam Gambhir is favoured by readers to make a comeback, as the selectors look for a replacement for the injured KL Rahul.
The IPL has just passed the halfway stage, and Rana has been the find of the tournament so far. The left-hander plays for Delhi in the first-class circuit. At the time of writing, he is the leading run-scorer for Mumbai Indians with 266 runs in eight innings at a strike rate of 135. He impressed in his second game, scoring 50 in a high-scoring chase against Kolkata Knight Riders. His penchant for hitting big sixes was evident in his unbeaten 62 against Kings XI Punjab, an innings that featured seven sixes. He has hit 16 sixes in the tournament, on par with Brendon McCullum.
Majority of the readers felt it was necessary to pick a wicketkeeper to deputise under MS Dhoni. Pant, who plays for Delhi Daredevils, got 31% of the votes, while Dinesh Karthik was a distant second with 13%. Pant has scored 141 runs in six innings, at an impressive strike rate of 162. Pant has been quite a sensation with his ability to hit massive sixes, and he also won hearts for committing to his franchise just days after the death of his father.
Gambhir hasn’t played a one-dayer for India since 2013, but he has struck form in the IPL, scoring 243 runs in seven innings with two fifties. However, when the readers were asked to pick a replacement for Rahul, a majority went for Shikhar Dhawan (32 votes), with Gambhir second with 22. Dhawan was recalled for the one-dayers against England recently.
Another batsman vying for a recall is Mumbai’s Rohit Sharma. When asked who was most likely to make a comeback, both Rohit and Gambhir pulled in almost the exact percentage of votes – around 18% – though it should be noted that Rohit was injured for over four months, thereby missing a majority of India’s home season. He made his return to competitive cricket only in March. Another player on the comeback trail is Suresh Raina, who got 16% of the votes.
Surprisingly, Dinesh Karthik failed to pull in enough votes, both on the comeback query and for the second wicketkeeper’s slot. Karthik is coming off a very successful domestic season for Tamil Nadu, scoring 854 runs in 12 innings in the 50-over games. Karthik scored hundreds in the finals of the Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophy tournaments, both of which were won by Tamil Nadu. Karthik has hit a purple patch, and hence the selectors will find it hard to ignore him.
The other choices for the second keeper were Kedar Jadhav and Test wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.
The selectors missed the original deadline of April 25 to announce the squad. There are indications that the team will be named only after April 27.