Pant merits place in WC squad: Nehra

Former India pacer Ashish Nehra feels the young Rishabh Pant is a player with the X-factor and deserves to be in the World Cup squad. PTI File Photo

A pure match-winner, a back-up opener and an effortless six-hitter in the class of Rohit Sharma -- Rishabh Pant merits selection in India's World Cup squad and there are more than one reason for it, feels former pacer Ashish Nehra.

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 for 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," Nehra told PTI on Thursday.

"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.

"Secondly, Rishabh can bat at any position between No 1- 7 and so Virat (Kohli) and the team management can use him as a floater," said Nehra, who was a key member of the 2011 World Cup winning squad.

Nehra pointed out Pant's ability to hit sixes effortlessly from the word go. Nehra said the fearless approach comes in handy in pressure situations.

"When it comes to effortlessly hitting sixes, Rishabh is second only to Rohit Sharma with his big-hitting ability. India will need that in abundance during the World Cup," Nehra said.

Nehra also felt Pant has shown the ability to win matches singlehandedly.

"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.

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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