New Delhi: Team India, which is preparing for the World Cup, is still engaged in the search for the most suitable batsman at the no. 4 positions in the batting order. Before the World Cup, the team’s players are playing in the domestic T20 cricket league, but no international series.
It is yet to be decided which player of the team is fit at this position. There are at least contenders.
From captain Virat Kohli’s point of view, Ambati Rayudu is the no. 4 batsman. Kohli says that Rayudu has the skill to bat at number four. He keeps his game uniform but his recent form has raised the question again whether he is suitable after two-down at a World Cup match. Rayudu is having trouble in strike rotation. In the first three matches of the five-match ODI series against Australia, Rayudu scored 13, 18 and 2 runs. He faced a total of 59 balls and did not score in 40 balls. Rayudu was not part of the team in the remaining two matches of the series.
Now that the competition is getting harder, the position of Rayudu cannot be taken for granted. However, this Hyderabad batsman was in good form in New Zealand. In the last match of the series, when the Indian team was in a crisis after losing four wickets for 18 runs, Rayudu struck a good partnership with Vijay Shankar. He also played the match-winning 90 runs innings. But since that shift to Wellington, Rayudu has not been in his elements.
Until a few weeks ago, Shankar’s name was not mentioned among the World Cup contenders but he got a chance in every match of the recently concluded ODI series against Australia. He can change the end of a match, playing good shots. His fielding is good too, and if he gets the chance, he can try accurate bowling as well. He showed this in Nagpur. He batted well also in the T20 international series. But there is one thing Vijay will have to work on: Power-hitting.
In the last match of the series, Shankar had a chance to cement his position. The beginning was good. But when his partnership with Kohli was taking shape, he was caught at long-on while trying to pull-off a pull.
After this wicket-keeper batsman made a century in England, Pant has strengthened his claim in the Indian team. This young wicketkeeper has the power to play big shots consistently. In Mohali, he showed a glimpse of his aggressiveness with 36 runs off 24 balls. He suffers from a lack of continuity though. He has yet to learn the art of batting with a good understanding of the situation.
His problem continues behind the wicket. There were several questions about Pant’s wicketkeeping. In the last two matches of the ODI series against Australia, Dhoni took rest, with Pant behind the wicket. He let go of many chances. He could not stump Turner, who later led Australia to victory. He made other mistakes. The spectators started teasing him with calls of ‘bring back Dhoni’.
Pant has been kept in the A category in the BCCI contract list of players. That is, just a notch down from A-Plus. It shows that Kohli and the team management trust him, but will he be able to make it to the World Cup?
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Looking at the mood of the team management, they want the former captain to bat at no. 5. Dhoni is no longer a big hitter as before; so, he cannot come down the pitch as often and a slow inning is untenable. His game is now restricted to making youngsters around him play aggressively. However, former cricketers like Sanjay Manjrekar believe that Dhoni is a suitable batsman for no. 4. He says that, in the middle of an innings, Dhoni can increase the score by quick running between the wickets. Dhoni can play long shots once he is set and he will get more chance to do so at no. 4.
Rahul was out of the team for the controversy over some utterances on the Koffee with Karan show. However, he made a comeback in the series against Australia. He scored 50 and 47 in two T20I matches. He got an opportunity to bat at no. 3 in one ODI, but Kohli is batting at that position.
Rahul can stake a claim on no. 4. He can otherwise play as a back-up opener. But how the team management is looking at him is the important question. Rahul’s performance in the Test series played in England was very poor but World Cup ODIs are a different format.
The team management could consider DK or Dinesh Karthik at this position. Karthik has good shots up his sleeves; he is an agile cricketer and can play great shots too.
The team management gave him a chance in the T20 series against Australia but not in the ODI series. However, the selectors said that they had seen Karthik and they want Pant to appear here. So, Kartik is still a part of the scheme of things. He can play the role of a finisher, a role Dhoni has been playing for a long time.