World Cup: Empty number 4 position a chink in Indian armour, says Vishal George

India has tried up to 12 batsmen in the position in the interim four years and that we still don’t have a fixed option is worrying, says George.

Vijay Shankar, Dinesh Karthik and even Hardik Pandya have been touted to play number four at the World Cup   -  Getty Images

Coming off a 4-1 away ODI series win in New Zealand, India once again asserted its status as clear favourites alongside the hosts in the run-up to the tournament.

However, that solitary loss sounded warning bells as it exposed a weak spot as yet effectively concealed by India’s resolute dominance in all other areas.

This weak spot was then thoroughly exploited at home by a resurgent Australia in a 3-2 series comeback win.

This chink in the Blues’ otherwise impenetrable armor is the no. 4 batting position.

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India has tried up to 12 batsmen in the position in the interim four years. Due to Ambati Rayudu’s extended run of 22 ODIs at two-down, many including the captain believed the spot sealed.

However, a dismal run in 2019 seeing a return of 247 runs in 10 matches at 30.87 saw him dramatically lose out in the final round of selection for the travelling squad.

Now, there are multiple batsman in the squad who could slot in at 4: Vijay Shankar, KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav and MS Dhoni, 4 of whom will definitely be in the first eleven.

Rahul and Karthik are preferred as a reserve opener and wicketkeeper respectively, with part-time bowling options Shankar and Jadhav expected to make the eleven.

The management has clearly indicated that they will take each game as it comes and will send in a middle-order batsman at 4 according to the unfolding situation.

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The no. 4 batting position is a vital cog in the well-oiled machine that is the Indian cricketing team. He ought to be able to pace his innings well either as support or as cover for the immaculate century-accumulator, Kohli.

They must rotate strike effectively, while taking occasional risks to accelerate scores in the middle overs. In case of a rare collective top-3 failure, they must absorb pressure and keep the scoreboard ticking to allow Dhoni to settle in and enable the lower middle-order batsman to attack from the get-go.

Incredibly enough, we are heading into a World Cup where a 500-plus score is a realistic possibility. Shankar and Jadhav are effective batsmen, however dip in form and fitness for both could pose problems for the second-best ranked ODI Team.

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While Rahul and Shankar both deserve a shot to cement the spot, Dinesh Karthik would be a better choice. He averages 47.22 from 17 innings with 7 not outs at positions 4 and 5, amidst an unparallelled incredible run of 12 not outs and 12 victories while chasing across international limited overs formats.

His invaluable experience (he debuted in 2004), his stellar record in England, his ability to bat at any position, his temperament to adapt to any situation, to dig in or blast off at will, and an ability to finish games under pressure, as witnessed in the memorable miraculous 8-ball 29 in the Nidahas Trophy final, will be crucial to India’s chances of winning the World Cup.

Vishal George   -  Special Arrangement

Vishal is a postgraduate student in Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.




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