Team India starts its new journey post the ICC World Cup 2019 with a full-fledged series against West Indies starting August 3. The World Cup saw the side bowing out from the semi-finals. India was a strong unit throughout. However, one major issue that bothered Virat Kohli & Co. was the issue with the number four in batting. Now, is it the turn for Shreyas Iyer to show what he is capable of?
In the build-up to the World Cup or even several series prior to that, this number four debate seemed to be a serious thing. Thanks to the Indian selectors for paving a situation as such especially since the series against South Africa earlier in 2018. Over a sustained period of time, we saw new faces donning the crucial number four.
One thought Ajinkya Rahane was the one after a decent series against the Proteas and some gritty knocks in 2017, but he was dropped strangely. Suresh Raina, Shreyas Iyer, and Ambati Rayudu were picked. The latter almost having sealed the ticket. But despite assurances, Rayudu was let go off in a crunch moment ahead of the World Cup perhaps for one poor series.
In between, India used other players in bits and pieces as well.
In the World Cup, three different batsmen donned the role. None of these were proper number four. And somehow the confusion always hampered the middle order with too many chopping and changing.
Now for the series against Windies, India has a mix of batsmen that can all take the number four. But given Shreyas Iyer making a return, the onus could be handed on to him. Here we look at how India’s hunt for number four continues and whether the selectors will stay in this zone to hamper the side. Also, what about Shreyas Iyer? Can he handle the responsibility and end discussions?
Selectors cannot afford the route taken to World Cup
The Indian selectors will need to embark upon a new journey and let go of bygones. There has been too much confusion, uncertainty, and lack of a proper run. The mantra is performed or perish. Players come in and go easily. This needs to stop. How can the MSK Prasad-led selection committee change?
Well, the basic idea is to take a leaf out from England’s book. See how the Three Lions succeeded after the disastrous 2015 World Cup to become champions in 2019. One common thing in England’s side was familiarity. It was always the same bunch of names. So one knew and related to the team.
Now if India wants to build aside for the 2023 World Cup at home, the work starts from the series against West Indies. Whoever gets picked in that middle order, needs to now be given time. Freedom of expression, not afraid to fail, learn from mistakes and finally settle down are key attributes for a perfect No.4 Indian Batsman. Up till the 2023 World Cup, India cannot be huffing and puffing for a middle-order.
Identification is key here. A change needs to come and it’s the selectors and management to bring that factor in and lift spirits.
World Cup: How India’s uncertain middle order looked out of sync?
When you look back at the recently concluded 2019 World Cup, India’s options in the middle was pretty baffling. They tried out KL Rahul at number four for the first few games. Rahul is a natural opening batsman. And he shined in CWC 19 after being promoted up the order post-Shikhar Dhawan’s injury.
Once this happened, in came Vijay Shankar. The promising player couldn’t live up to the hype and expectations in a pressure tournament as such. Each time we expected a Shankar show, he threw his wicket away. Then came in Dhawan’s replacement Rishabh Pant. Another player who is a natural lower middle-order Indian batsman, or someone who can charge upfront.
So it’s safe to say all thee three players played out of positions. Rahul did get a fifty at number four. The other two couldn’t come up with something authoritative. India’s middle-order was a doubt throughout. There were too many changes in terms of personnel and batting order. Unfortunately, that turned out to be the Achilles heel in the main game against New Zealand.
India also didn’t back Kedar Jadhav and stick with him. And when someone like a Dinesh Karthik came in, he never got the time or exposure. That’s where a trick was missed.
Can Iyer come in and take command of the ship?
With Dhawan and Rohit Sharma expected to open, it remains to be seen what the management does with Rahul. Will he one out at number four? If not, then will Pant continue to get that place? With no MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya available for the series, India has some openings. One thing the management should opt for is to allow Pant the luxury to come in at number five or six and be that finisher. Also, Rahul is the third opening option and should perhaps keep in that zone.
Now this will see Shreyas Iyer get hold of that number four. The Mumbaikar is a stylish Indian batsman, who has done well across formats in domestic cricket. Shreyas Iyer also made his ODI debut for India in 2017. He went on to play just six games for the side. The trajectory suggests that Iyer didn’t have a fix position.
His versatility allowed the management to bring him in at number three or sometimes at number five just as a floater and many other Indian batsmen were utilized as floaters.
But perhaps the calm headed Iyer could take over the much-debated number four. So far in six ODIs, Iyer scored 210 runs with a best of 88 making his names discussed for the number four ahead of the World Cup.
Iyer had a terrific campaign for India A against West Indies A recently. He is in form and knows the situation. Also, he has aged by his side and that can see him correct any issues or flaws with his techniques. India should groom someone like an Iyer and back him. India needs a specialist in that middle order and this is one factor that could augur well for the Men in Blue.