March 19, 2019 / 10:33 AM / a month ago

Pujara or Pant - Ganguly suggests extreme No. 4 choices for India

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Former captain Sourav Ganguly has offered two extreme choices to end India’s quest for the perfect number four batsman at this year’s World Cup, suggesting they choose between a dour Cheteshwar Pujara and a daredevil Rishabh Pant for the role.

Cricket - England v India - Fourth Test - Ageas Bowl, West End, Britain - August 31, 2018 India's Cheteshwar Pujara salutes the crowd at the end of the innings Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

India continue to fret over the crucial batting slot after a series of candidates fluffed their auditions ahead of the World Cup in England and Wales.

Their last ODI series before the showpiece event did not suggest any remedy either, with Ambati Rayudu scoring 13, 18 and two in the first three matches against Australia while Pant scored 16 in the fifth.

Ganguly caused quite a consternation by suggesting the name of test specialist Pujara who played the last of his five ODIs in 2014.

“I suggest Pujara’s name because he’s in great form. We’ve seen how well he did in Australia,” Ganguly said of the 31-year-old architect of India’s first-ever test series victory in Australia earlier this year.

Ganguly pointed out how Rahul Dravid, someone Pujara is often likened to for their similar batting approach, became part of India’s ODI squad despite not being a power-hitter.

“I’ve seen Rahul Dravid playing World Cup and excelling at number four and five. We used to assign him a role. So I suggest, if you don’t have a ready number four batsman, you can consider Pujara,” Ganguly told reporters on Tuesday.

In case it’s too radical a choice, Ganguly also suggested the name of Pant, more a plunderer than an accumulator of runs.

The 21-year-old, who has built a growing six-hitting reputation, impressed in the test series in England and Australia and is expected to be India’s second choice wicketkeeper behind Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the World Cup.

Pant has not been as impressive in one-dayers, but Ganguly attributed it to his limited chances that came only when Dhoni was either resting or recovering.

“Rishabh is coming in and going out all the time and that’s never good for anybody. The reason he succeeds in test cricket is because he plays it consistently,” said Ganguly, who has joined Delhi Capitals as an advisor ahead of the Indian Premier League beginning on March 23.

“How many Indian wicketkeeper-batsmen have got test hundreds in England and Australia? And he scored them at ease, it’s not that he struggled... for me, he’s your future.

“For the next 10 years, you’ll see that boy a lot in all formats... He’ll be a huge asset to the Indian team in the years to come.”

As Delhi Capitals head coach, Ricky Ponting has had a good look at Pant and the former Australia captain agreed with Ganguly’s assessment of the player.

Cricket - England v India - Fifth Test - Kia Oval, London, Britain - September 11, 2018 India's Rishabh Pant celebrates his century Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

“If I were an Indian selector, I’d be picking him in the World Cup squad and I’d play him as a batter,” Ponting said.

“I’d play him at number four in the Indian team. He’s that sort of guy with that sort of talent who can win you World Cup. He’s just got that X-factor...”

India begin their quest for a third 50-over World Cup title against South Africa at Southampton on June 5.

Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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