Rishabh Pant and Manish Pandey
Rishabh Pant and Manish Pandey Image Credit: AFP and PTI

Dubai: The sub-plot of the last two IPL matches on Monday and Tuesday was hard to miss — it was that of men who missed the cut for the Indian World Cup squad proving a point.

Only 15 Indian cricketers playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) were named in the squad, but some of the selections were so close that even Indian head coach Ravi Shastri admitted that he would have liked to take a 16-member contingent to England.

Rishabh Pant’s omission had evoked strong criticism and this 21-year-old wicketkeeper batsman is out to prove during the IPL that the selectors have made a mistake. On Monday, Pant cracked an unbeaten 78 runs off 36 balls to ensure Delhi Capitals a six-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals and display his worth as a matchwinner and finisher.

I have always believed the team comes first and respected the management and the selectors’ decision. I will continue to do that.

- Ajinkya Rahane | Indian Test vice-captain

After receiving the Man of the Match award, Pant candidly admitted that thoughts of not being selected on India’s World Cup team were on his mind. “I won’t lie that the thought wasn’t running through my mind, but I just focus on my process and that’s all I was thinking of. The wicket was playing good, and I just took advantage of that, I guess.”

Ajinkya Rahane, vice captain of the Indian Test team and a senior pro, also exhibited his verve despite being ignored through an unbeaten century for Royals against Delhi Capitals on Monday. His 105 off 63 balls went in vain as Delhi won the match, but with a strike rate of 118 in T20 format, he has often proved he is an asset for limited overs cricket. His name even did the rounds with the selectors when they were picking the squad.

Asked his reaction after Rahane got ignored for the World Cup, he said: “I have always believed the team comes first and respected the management and the selectors’ decision. I will continue to do that. But in the end, it is important that your performance is recognised.”

Manish Pandey was another strong contender for the World Cup. He played a brilliant unbeaten knock of 83 off 49 balls for Sunrisers against Chennai Super Kings on Tuesday. His knock went in vain as Chennai won by a run, but many felt after Pandey’s knock that he should have been in the World Cup squad. There were many tweets saying that leaving out Pandey was a mistake by the selectors.

The positive aspect is that these cricketers’ form has not been hit even after by being dropped for the World Cup. As Shastri remarked in Dubai recently: “Never be disheartened. Cricket is a funny game, there could be injuries to players so you never know when you could be called up.”