Who is India's No. 3 in T20Is?

In each of the last six completed T20Is, India has used a different batsman at No. 3, with Virat Kohli batting at the position only once.

Sanju Samson is the latest batsman to be tried at the No. 3 position by the India team management.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

A 78-run mauling of Sri Lanka on Friday night saw India’s longest home season of T20Is - with 12 internationals, including two abandonments, in four series over the last three and a half months - come to an end. As the Men in Blue switch gears into the T20 World Cup preparation, despite India hardly being stretched at home, one cannot help but wonder whether the No. 3 slot in T20Is has emerged as the equivalent of No. 4 in ODIs prior to the 2019 World Cup.

Despite trying out around a dozen options between the ODI World Cups, India still struggled to find a reliable No. 4 at the World Cup. It was one of the decisive factors in the team’s stunning semifinal exit in England last July. The connoisseurs would be hoping the same story is not repeated ahead of the T20 World Cup, to be played in Australia in October-November.

In each of the last six completed T20Is, India has used a different batsman at No. 3. K.L. Rahul (52 off 35, vs Bangladesh in Nagpur), Virat Kohli (94 n.o. off 50, vs West Indies in Hyderabad), Shivam Dube (54 off 30, vs West Indies in Thiruvananthapuram), Rishabh Pant (0 off 2, vs West Indies in Mumbai), Shreyas Iyer (34 off 26, vs Sri Lanka in Indore) and Sanju Samson (6 off 2, vs Sri Lanka in Pune) have all been tried out at the key slot, with varied degrees of returns.

Read: Dhawan, Rahul, Saini help Men in Blue win T20I series

No doubt that the ploy is with an eye on trying out different combinations and individuals ahead of the marquee event and with its best XI on the park, India don’t really need to look beyond either captain Kohli or Rahul for the No. 3 slot. Perhaps that’s why opener Shikhar Dhawan isn’t concerned about the constant tinkering of the crucial spot.

“I’m sure that the management wants to try players. Today also we wanted to try other players who haven’t batted in the series and give them a fair chance because we’re only left with five T20 games (in New Zealand) and as a team we wanted to give chance to everyone and that’s why they’ve been rotating players. (Hopefully) Till the World Cup comes, everyone is refined and know their job as well,” Dhawan said, after marking his return from a knee injury with a sizzling fifty on Friday night.

Why bother about their headache

Dhawan’s fifty has made the race for the opening combination even hotter. While Rohit Sharma, who was rested for the T20 series versus Sri Lanka, is assured of the position, Dhawan and Rahul have been staking a claim for his partner with impressive performances. Dhawan, however, chose to put the onus on the selectors and the team management to choose the best combination.

“All the three players are doing well. Rohit had an excellent 2019. Rahul has been doing good since one-two months and he is a good player and even mai bhi picture mein aaya ga hu, maine bhi aaj acha kar diya hai (I have also entered the fray with a good show),” Dhawan said.

“Toh picture achihi ban rahi hai abhi (the race is heating up), khair yeh sardaredi meri nahi hai (but this is not my headache). So I don’t think about it, because that is not in my hands. It is in my hands to perform and play well and I am happy and satisfied that I got two opportunities and was able to express myself… baki coaches aur captain ke upar hai, toh unki sardadi mai kyun lu? (the rest depends on the coaches and the captain, so why should I bother about their headache?).”