Saba Karim has explained that India can only afford to play one of Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik in the run-up to World T20 if they want to maintain team balance. He highlighted the team's success with Hardik Pandya as a sixth bowling option and how playing an extra batsman might hamper the same.
India has been on a roll in limited overs cricket in recent times, registering one series win after another. This season alone, they have managed to defeat England and Ireland in their own backyard before defeating the West Indies in the Caribbean with an emphatic 4-1 scoreline. The last time India lost a T20I series was way back in July 2021, when they sent a second fiddle side to face Sri Lanka and have since tallied 19 victories in 23 bilateral games.
A major part of their success is due to the side's ridiculous squad depth in all departments. As far as batting is concerned, the Men in Blue have the likes of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik to name a few with several others waiting in the wings. The reserve players of late have been getting ample opportunities with India looking to experiment keeping in mind the ICC World T20 in October but now the time has come for them to finalize a lineup.
Their biggest headache seems to be where to fit Rishabh Pant in the lineup considering the anticipated return of KL Rahul and Virat Kohli into the lineup. Recently, Pant has been tested as an opener in the T20I side but that role is expected to be taken up by Rahul from the Asia Cup onwards. With Virat Kohli and Suryakumar pretty much confirmed to play, it leaves little space for him to showcase his talent. Perhaps the only option that remains is to swap him with Dinesh Karthik, as per the former national selector Saba Karim
“Yes, you better need to sort it out as soon as possible. But you know what, to fix the No. 4 slot or the number four position for a specific player, we need to get the combination and balance of the side correct. When I say this I mean they need to pick between Dinesh Kartik or Rishabh Pant. Once you decide on either of these players, it'll get easy to sort in Suryakumar Yadav at number four," he said on SPORTS18's daily sports news show ‘SPORTS OVER THE TOP'.
An alternative could be to drop a bowler and play Pant as the extra batsman, given Hardik Pandya has been bowling brilliantly off late. However, that would restrict the captain's choices on the field and put undue pressure on the all-rounder from Gujarat since he would have to complete his quota of four overs at all costs.
“I feel that to get the balance right, India has done well with five bowlers plus Hardik Pandya as a sixth bowling option. So would you like to break that kind of a combination and get in another bat at number 7 that is Dinesh Karthik at number 7? That means that you go in with Hardik Pandya the fifth bowler who is expected to bowl 4 overs, so that is another big call from the Indian team management," explained Karim.
"So then if so that that may pose some issues for the Indian team management. Whatever I have seen from Rohit Sharma's captaincy, I think he prefers to have five regular bowlers plus Hardik Pandya as their six bowling options. If that is the case then you need to decide between Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik."
All these questions are set to be answered on August 28 when India begins their Asia Cup campaign against Pakistan at the Dubai International Stadium.