Mumbai: Retirement is solely Mahendra Singh Dhoni's prerogative, but chairman of selectors M S K Prasad on Sunday clearly stated that young Rishabh Pant will be "groomed" as India's first-choice wicketkeeper across formats in the coming days.
Dhoni has not announced his retirement from international cricket amid widespread speculations but has made himself unavailable for the next two months as he will be serving his regiment in paramilitary forces.
Without divulging much on the World Cup winning captain's future plans, Prasad said that a legend like Dhoni knows when to retire but the future course of Indian cricket will be charted by the selectors.
"Retirement is purely individual (decision). A legendary cricketer like Dhoni, he knows when to retire. What is the future course of action, that is in the hands of the selection committee. I don't think we need to discuss anything more on it. First of all he is not available. Second, we have already started grooming youngsters," Prasad said at the media conference.
The former Indian Test stumper wants Pant to get as many opportunities as he gets ready to fill in the big shoes of Dhoni in the coming days.
"He (Dhoni) is unavailable for the series. He has expressed his unavailability. Having said that we had a certain roadmap and plans till the World Cup. Post World Cup, we have laid down a few more plans and we thought of giving as many opportunities as possible to Rishabh Pant and and to see, he is groomed. That is our plan right now and we did discuss this with him (Dhoni)," said Prasad.
Pant was already the number one choice in Tests and now with uncertainty over Dhoni's future, he has become the preferred choice in all three formats.
The 21-year-old is a powerhouse of talent but at times, his shot selection in crucial moments have been questioned including in India's World Cup semifinal loss to New Zealand.
However, Prasad praised Pant for his innings of 32 against the Black Caps after India lost three wickets for five runs chasing 240.
"He played well. Especially in those conditions, he batted really well," he added.
Narrow miss for Bharat
Pant will be playing all the three formats so we will have to look about his workload management. Saha and K S Bharat will come into picture at some point.
"In the longer format, K S Bharat was very, very close to get selected. We have an unwritten norm when a senior cricketer is injured, he should get a comeback opportunity. That's what we have given to Saha," said Prasad.
He further said that the squads for the West Indies tour have been announced keeping in consideration the performances of the players who are playing for India 'A' in the Caribbean Islands.
Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rahul Chahar, Navdeep Saini and Krunal Pandya are among the ones who have been playing for India 'A' against West Indies 'A'.
"We have taken India 'A' performances into consideration," said Prasad.
All-rounder Hardik Pandya, who suffered from a groin injury during theWorld Cup, has been rested for the entire tour.
Pant was not included in the initial World Cup squad and was then called in as a replacement for Shikhar Dhawan, who got injured during India's league match against Australia. Prasad said that the 21-year-old was inducted into the World Cup squad on the insistence of the team management who felt the need of a left-handed batsman at the top of the order.
"I don't do press conference in between any series and that has led to speculations. When Dhawan got injured, we already had a third opener in KL (Rahul). We didn't have a left-hander at top so the team management had requested for a left-hander and we had no option other than Pant. It confused many why middle-order (batsman) came in for opener," said Prasad.
During the course of the event where India reached the semis, Mayank Agarwal was also called in as replacement for Vijay Shankar.
"When Shankar was injured, Rahul had a big fall at the boundary so there was a medical emergency on whether he will continue or not. At that time, a written communication was given that a back-up opener was needed. That is when we went to Mayank."
India's tour of the West Indies will take place from August 3 to September 3 and will be held in the Caribbean islands and the US.
The tour kicks off with two T20Is at the Broward County Stadium in Florida, US, -- played on August 3 and 4. They will then travel to Guyana to play the final T20I on August 6 at the Guyana National Stadium.
After that, both the teams play the first ODI of the three-match series at the same ground in Guyana on August 8, followed by the remaining two 50-over matches to be played at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad on August 11 and 14.
The two Tests, which are part of the ICC Test Championship, will be played at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Antigua (August 22-26) and at Sabina Park in Jamaica (August 30-September 3).