Virat Kohli defends decision to pick Dinesh Karthik over Rishabh Pant for World Cup

Selection of the 33-year-old Karthik in the 15-man squad was sharply criticised by some former cricketers

Virat Kohli says Dinesh Karthik's wicketkeeping and ability to finish an innings gave him the nod over 21-year-old Rishabh Pant. AFP
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India picked veteran Dinesh Karthik over rising talent Rishabh Pant for the World Cup because of his composure under pressure, captain Virat Kohli said.

The selection of the 33-year-old Karthik in the 15-man squad was sharply criticised by some former cricketers who felt the 21-year-old Pant should have been given a chance.

Since making his debut in 2018, Pant has impressed with his batting, including a maiden Test century in England.

He scored 488 runs from 16 matches in the just-finished Indian Premier League, while Karthik made 253 runs from 14 games.

Both players are vying for the reserve wicketkeeper slot behind former captain MS Dhoni.

"In pressure situations, he [Karthik] has shown composure. It was something that everybody on board was convinced about. He has the experience," Kohli told the Times of India newspaper.

"If, god forbid, something happens to MS, Karthik can be immensely valuable behind the wickets. As a finisher, he's done well.

"So, it was the overall exposure to a tournament of this magnitude that was taken into primary consideration," said Kohli.

After making his debut in 2004, Karthik has played 91 one-day internationals while Pant has five to his name.

Karthik, who has also played 26 test matches for India, has the ability to bat anywhere in the batting order which makes him a limited-overs asset.

"We can very well imagine there's more than an opinion in place that some capable guys have missed out," India coach Ravi Shastri added. "Heart goes out to them.

"Picking 15 from an immensely talented pool is never easy. I'd say to these guys: Keep going the way you have. Be prepared, in case there's an unforeseen requirement that pops up."

Kohli, who will be leading India for the first time at the World Cup, said he was not bothered about the constant attention he gets as a batsman and captain.

"I don't want to be the centre of everything. Nobody wants that. But when your intent is to make the team win, eventually you end up doing things which are always going to be seen," said Kohli, the world's No 1 Test and one-day player.

"I would always put my body on the line for the team."

India are chasing their third World Cup after wins in 1983 and 2011.