With less than six months to go for the World Cup, India is furiously trying to figure out its combinations and bench-strength. The two-time champion has lost in the semifinals of the last two editions in 2015 and 2019, and has been looking to cover all bases to recreate the magic of its 2011 triumph at home.
In 2019, the lack of clarity in the middle-order tripped India in the semifinals against New Zealand when the top four failed to give the start. It is an area the current management has made a conscious effort in the last few years. One piece of the puzzle was pushing K.L. Rahul down the order to the No. 5 as wicketkeeper bat, which has worked so far.
Another player identified to shoulder the responsibility in the middle has been Shreyas Iyer at No. 4. This position came under scrutiny four years ago when Ambati Rayudu was jettisoned for Vijay Shankar at the eleventh hour.
But Shreyas has had a few injury setbacks recently, and the team has been experimenting with Suryakumar Yadav in his place. The dashing batter has made a tremendous impact in T20Is and was rewarded with a slot in the 50-over format ahead of the likes of Sanju Samson, but is yet to have the same level of success.
In the ongoing series against Australia, Suryakumar has been prised out for golden ducks in both matches by Mitchell Starc. After a promising start to his career in which he scored two half-centuries in the first six matches, his performances in the last 14 outings have been sub-par.
When asked about Suryakumar’s form, skipper Rohit Sharma said that he would like to see the batter do better in the longer formats of the game. “We don’t know about Shreyas’s return, and at this point, a slot is available, so we have to play him. Of course, we have seen, and he knows that he has to do well in the slightly longer format of the game. Things are there in his mind as well,” said Rohit, after the ten-wicket loss to Australia in Visakhapatnam on Sunday.
At the same time, the skipper also said, “He (Suryakumar) has shown a lot of potential in white ball, and I have said before that those guys with potential will be given a run. Right now, he has got the place when someone has been injured or unavailable. So that doesn’t serve the purpose, where, as management, we can look at performances so much,” he added.
“When you give a consistent run of matches, and you feel that ‘okay, runs are not coming, and he is not comfortable’, then we will start thinking about it. Right now, we haven’t gone down that route,” Rohit explained.
The third match in Chennai could be crucial for Suryakumar’s fortunes. Another failure here could force the team management to return to the drawing board and go back to Samson or even consider promoting someone like Washington Sundar — whose batting talent could be utilised more — up the order.