New Delhi: Former India paceman Ashish Nehra has backed young wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant's inclusion in the World Cup squad, saying that he can provide the team with the much needed X-factor in the big tournament.
Nehra, who has tracked Pant's progress in Delhi and international cricket since he first joined the Sonnet Club, gave five elaborate reasons for the dynamic youngster's inclusion in the playing XI of the mega-event.
"In a team, there will always be contributors but at a big event like the World Cup, you need players with X-factor. Rishabh Pant is not a mere contributor but a pure match-winner who should be picked for the World Cup," said Nehra.
Nehra, a key member of the 2011 World Cup-winning team, feels there are three to four specific reasons to pick Pant.
"If you look at India's batting line up, save Shikhar (Dhawan), there aren't any left-handers in the top seven. You need variety with a left-right combination, where Rishabh perfectly fits," he reasoned.
The 21-year-old Pant is a left-hander and scored Test hundreds in his first series in England and Australia.
"Secondly, Rishabh can bat at any position between Nos 1 to 7 and so Virat (Kohli) and the team management can use him as a floater," said Nehra, who also played the 2003 World Cup final in South Africa.
The third reason cited by Nehra was Pant's ability to hit sixes effortlessly. Nehra said the fearless approach comes in handy in pressure situations.
"If it comes to effortlessly hitting sixes, Rishabh comes second only to Rohit Sharma with his big-hitting ability. India will need that in abundance during the World Cup," Nehra said.
And last but not the least, Nehra felt Pant has shown the ability to win matches single-handedly.
"No disrespect, this team has three clear match-winners and they are Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. For me, the fourth one is going to be Rishabh Pant.
"Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav and Dinesh Karthik are all fantastic players but they are all in the same mould. You need X-factor which this boy possesses," said Nehra.
Asked whether a seasoned finisher like Karthik could be overlooked at the expense of a rookie, Nehra said both the players can make it.
"As I have already said, Rishabh could also be your third opener, so DK (as Karthik is referred to) could be your middle-order batter," he said.
But is it wise to have three keepers in the 15? The veteran said looking at Pant and Karthik as second and third keepers is wrong.
"I don't look at it from that perspective. If Rishabh and DK are being picked ahead of specialist batsmen like Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer, then you are looking at them as specialist batsmen.
"So why complicate the thought process. As it is we have the peerless MS Dhoni behind stumps so treat both as specialist batsmen," he concluded.
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