India chief coach Rahul Dravid has indicated that Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya could be vital cogs in the country’s campaign in the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia later this year, saying that “both of them are our enforcers” as the side looks to overcome the disappointment of last year’s tournament and come back strongly in the 2022 mega event.
Both Karthik and Pandya have come up with heartening performances in the drawn five-match T20I series against South Africa, with the former scoring a match-defining half-century in Rajkot that helped the hosts level the series at 2-2.
The fifth and final game at Bengaluru on Sunday was washed out.
“He (Karthik) is picked for a very specific skill and he was picked for that based on what he has been doing particularly well over the last two or three years,” Dravid said post-match on Sunday.
“It almost came together perfectly for us in that game at Rajkot when we needed that big performance in the last five overs to be able to make a par score.
“He (Karthik) and Hardik (Pandya) batted beautifully for us and both of them are our enforcers at the end and guys that can capitalise on the last five or six overs as well as anyone in the world. It was really nice to see Karthik come off and do what he has been picked to do and it certainly opens up a lot more options for us going forward. Innings like that (in Rajkot) means he is certainly knocking very hard,” added Dravid.
While the start of the 20-over showcase is still more than three months away, India still have many issues to iron out as they zero in on their final 15-player squad for this year’s tournament.
With Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and KL Rahul either rested or injured for the recently completed T20I series against South Africa, a host of fringe performers were given the chance to put their best foot forward during the five-match series.
That quartet are almost certain to feature in India’s squad that will travel to Australia at the start of October for the four-week long tournament, but there are seemingly many spots still open for the remainder of India’s touring party, according to ICC.
India still have at least 13 T20Is to play before they fly to Australia, with matches against Ireland (two), England (three), West Indies (five) and Australia (three) slated between now and the start of the tournament on October 16.
And Dravid wants his fringe players to perform during those warm-up matches to ensure they make their case for selection unequivocal. “I was telling the guys that they have to bang the door down,” Dravid said.
“It is not about knocking on the door; they have to start banging the door down. We are going to start looking to finalise that squad as quickly as possible. Whether that will happen in the next series or the series after that is hard to tell, but we are certainly looking to do that as quickly as possible.”
Dravid said he is starting to form a picture in his mind about what he wants his touring party to look like. “As you come closer to events you want to be able to finalise your final squad as quickly as possible,” he said, adding, “We can only take 15 to the World Cup, but you want to have your top 18 or 20 players (chosen)… and that you are clear on that and what type of squad you want to take to the World Cup.”