Rishabh Pant and Vijay Shankar have given the Indian cricket team plenty of depth due to their performances in the recently concluded tours of Australia and New Zealand. However, this has also presented the MSK Prasad-led selection panel with plenty of headaches as they prepare to pick the 15-man squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 which will be held in England from May 31. Pant was the star with the bat and behind the stumps during the tour of Australia in which India won the Test series 2-1. Shankar, on the other hand, chipped in with a vital 45 that helped India win the Wellington ODI and in the absence of Virat Kohli, he batted at No.3 in the Twenty20 Internationals in which he blasted 43 in the Hamilton T20I which India lost by four runs.
In an exclusive interview to ESPNCricinfo, MSK Prasad has said that Shankar and Pant are in contention for a spot in the World Cup squad. “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 reason we have included him in India A series wherever possible. In whatever opportunities he has got, Shankar has shown the skillsets required at this level. 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,” Prasad said on the opportunities for both Pant and Shankar.
The current line-up of the Indian cricket team has plenty of players who select themselves. Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli form the top three while MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya and Ambati Rayudu are the players who shore-up the middle order along with Kedar Jadhav. With the inclusion of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar as pacers and Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal as the spinners, there are only two or three spots where there will be intense competition. Pant and Shankar are not the only two players, with Ajinkya Rahane also in the mix as well as KL Rahul and Krunal Pandya.
In the five-match series against the England Lions, Rahane smashed 59 and 91 and looked in good touch. Rahul, who was suspended from the tour of Australia along with Hardik for their ‘outrageous’ comments on the show Koffee With Karan, is also in the mix having scored 89 in the four-day game against the England Lions in Wayanad. However, Rahul’s form across all formats has been average in 2017 and 2018. However, Prasad reiterated that Rahane had a good chance as his form in the domestic circuit has been good.
"In domestic cricket he has been in form. He is very much in contention for the World Cup,” Prasad said.