Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar on Monday said he was surprised at young wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant’s exclusion from India’s World Cup squad given his “exceptionally” good batting form and improvement in wicket-keeping skills recently.

Dinesh Karthik pipped Pant in the fight for the second wicketkeeper’s slot in India’s 15-man squad for the World Cup, starting on May 30 in England. Gavaskar, though, backed Karthik as a better keeper.

“[I am] a bit surprised looking at his [Pant’s] form,” Gavaskar told India Today.

“He was batting exceptionally well, not only in the IPL but even before that. He was showing great improvement his wicket-keeping as well. He brings that left-handed option in the top-six, which is very handy against the bowlers. The bowlers have to change their line [for a left-hander] and the captains have to make a lot of field arrangements.”

Pant has scored 245 runs in the ongoing IPL compared to Karthik’s 111. Karthik was chosen over Pant despite going through a slump in form for Kolkata Knight Riders. Gavaskar said there was some merit in the move.

“On a morning when say MSD [Mahendra Singh Dhoni] has a flu and can’t play, you want somebody who is a better wicket-keeper. I think Karthik’s wicket-keeping skills, more than anything, won him this place,” Gavaskar said.

Gavaskar said all-rounder Vijay Shankar, who made it to the squad for his “three-dimensional qualities”, will be a very useful player for the team.

“He is a cricketer who has improved over the last one year,” the batting great said.

“He has grown in confidence. Shankar is a useful cricketer. He is a very good batsman, handy bowler, and an outstanding fielder.”

Former Indian batsman Aakash Chopra said Pant’s elevation to the top tier of the central contracts had him believe that the youngster would make India’s World Cup squad. “Wasn’t Pant elevated to the top tier of the Central Contracts a few weeks back? Not a certainty in two of the three formats,” Chopra wrote on his twitter page.

He added, “India has picked Shankar as No 4 option without really knowing if it’ll work. DK [Karthik] will play only when Dhoni isn’t available. And no fourth seamer..... interesting choices. Hope it works. Good luck.”

Former India medium-pacer RP Singh, star of India’s 2007 World T20 triumph, said that he hoped that the decision to pick experience over youth works in the team’s favour at the mega-event.

“Clearly they’ve chosen experience and patience in the form of Dinesh Karthik. Middle order will be very interesting to see KL Rahul/Dinesh Karthik could be at number four. Rest seems sorted with Kedar Jadhav and MS Dhoni at 5-6,” Singh tweeted.