BCCI chief selector MSK Prasad on Sunday (January 13) said that wicketkeeper batsman Rishabh Pant was needed a rest after featuring in three T20Is and the entire Border-Gavaskar Trophy down under.
Pant’s absence from India’s ODI squad against Australia has been the talk of the town lately but Prasad set the record straight about selection committee's plans regarding talents such as Pant and Shubman Gill.
"Rishabh Pant played three T20s and four Test matches in Australia and that had an impact on his body. He needed complete rest for two weeks and then we will take a call on how many matches he will play against England Lions. Let me put it straight, he is very much in our World Cup plans. He is a champion player in the making and even he is not fully aware the kind of potential he has," Prasad told PTI in an exclusive interview.
The chairman of selection committee is pleased that Pant now understands what skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri expect of him and his swashbuckling ton in Sydney was a testimony to that.
"Ravi and Virat had advised him to put his head down and respect the match situation and he did exactly that. He proved that he can switch gears seamlessly. When we picked him for Tests, experts were skeptical about his keeping but 11 catches in a Test in England, record dismissals in Australia series proves that selection committee is vindicated," he added.
Prasad is equally excited about young Shubman Gill as he feels that the 19-year-old batting sensation from Punjab is now ready for international cricket.
"Shubman is comfortable both opening the innings as well as playing in the middle-order. For New Zealand series, we are looking at him as the reserve opener behind Shikhar (Dhawan) and Rohit (Sharma). I won't comment if he will make it to World Cup but he was phenomenal as an opener for India A in New Zealand.
"We have discussed with Rahul (Dravid), that Shubman is ready for international cricket. The best part is the clutch of A tours which has made all these players battle ready for the biggest challenge," the eloquent Prasad said.
The likes of Hanuma Vihari, Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Khaleel Ahmed have all been impressive in international cricket and that makes Prasad very happy.
"I regularly discuss the progress of the players with Ravi and Rahul. Have a look at how we have planned a player's progression from Ranji Trophy, A team to senior team. Look at Hanuma Vihari and Mayank Agarwal. They don't look intimidated when thrown into the deep end of the pool," said Prasad.
"We received flak when we had replaced world's No. 1 and No. 2 spinner (as per ICC Rankings) with two young wrist spinners. One and half years down the line, they (Kuldeep and Chahal) have had a contribution in at least 70 percent of India's limited-overs wins," he explained.
The chairman of selectors also spoke about how they had to go against the popular sentiment when they rested Jasprit Bumrah for the two Tests against the West Indies.
"Trust me, had Jasprit played those two Tests against West Indies, he wouldn't have played all four Test against Australia. The support staff has really monitored him well. He is now fitter and stronger and with Bharath Arun continuously working with him, he has improved as a bowler," Prasad was all praise for him.
"But a lot of credit should go to Jasprit because Arun gave him a plan but it was up to him to make the effort to implement the plan. He has really worked hard. When we first picked him, so many were skeptical whether it was prudent to pick a white ball specialist but at the end of the year, we can all see the results."
Mohammad Shami's peak fitness during the season and his ability to bowl at the same speed during third and fourth spell could be attributed to the Bengal speedster's new-found love for following fitness regimen.
"Shami was one such bowler, who has of late started enjoying fitness routines, which wasn't the case earlier. Trainer Shankar Basu has prepared an exclusive chart for him, which he follows religiously now.
"His craft as a fast bowler was never doubted but it was his fitness that used to let him down. If you saw, he was bowling 140 plus in the last Tests in England and Australia. Shami's fitness has been the biggest plus for him," Prasad concluded.
(With PTI inputs)