ICC World Cup 2019: With Shikhar Dhawan injured, the No.4 debate starts all over again for India

posted on 2019-06-11 21:44:29
posted by Kausthub Swaminathan

With Shikhar Dhawan out, it's almost sure that the No.4 spot that KL Rahul has filled so far will be left with a void. Here we look at the possible combinations India can go with to fill the important slot.

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The Indian team's playing XI looked almost set after two convincing performances in the ongoing World Cup. With each opener getting a hundred - Rohit Sharma against South Africa and Shikhar Dhawan against Australia - and the others getting some decent scores, the batting lineup looked sorted. But Shikhar Dhawan injured his thumb during the epic knock against Australia. With no backup opener except the current No.4 KL Rahul, India find themselves trying to figure out the ideal player for the all-important position yet again. We look at some options that the Indian team can go with.

1. Vijay Shankar

Shankar's story is a peculiar one. Just 5 ODI innings old, he wouldn't have expected the call-up to the Cricket World Cup team. The selectors opined that he would be the ideal no.4 and also could provide the additional bowling option. But failure in the warm-ups after a poor IPL, and the fact that Rahul scored a ton in the warm-ups, kept him out of the XI. So by the selectors' logic he will be the first in line to play as a No.4 batsman with Rahul moving up the order.

Coming in after the loss of early wickets at Wellington and Nagpur, where he got a couple of 40s, speaks of his ability to perform under pressure with the bat. Although a small sample size, the assurance he showed is probably enough for him to get in.

2. Dinesh Karthik

Karthik is senior to Shankar in the No.4 experiment and has got in decent performances, finishing off a few games. Although he is seen as a finisher by the Indian management he can bring in the experience necessary to the batting slot. In positions where he's played more than 10 innings he averages his best at No. 4. While 38.73 doesn't seem a great average, he has done better in the last year. He was named as a backup keeper so it remains to be seen if the management considers him as a No.4 option.

3. MS Dhoni

MS Dhoni's role in the Indian team has changed in the past few years, from a trusted finisher to a bankable batsman providing solidity in the middle order. He is still able to find the boundaries after spending some time in the middle. Playing at number 4 gives him all the time he needs to play a pivotal big knock. In 30 innings where he has walked at the fall of 2 wickets he averages 56.58, and it is not influenced by not outs as he has been not out only 6 times.

While it is a good option it does leave the gate a bit open in the lower-middle order. This move risks India to become too top heavy and in the case of early wickets, it will be disastrous. This is where Dinesh Karthik can again provide the experience, as well as the solidity and hitting-ability coming in at No.5. Vijay Shankar can also be another option as he has the ability to wield the long handle when necessary mixed with a good defense.

4. Hardik Pandya

Not many batsmen were excluded in the trials for the No.4 slot and neither was Pandya. He was tried for just a couple of innings without much success. But, coming in at the 38th over against Australia at the same position he played a blistering, pivotal knock of 48 in India's second World Cup match. Hardik isn't a player who should be tied down to a particular position. With the power he possesses he can change games in a matter of five overs. He can be a floater who will provide impetus to the innings in the middle or finish with a flourish.

Hardik Pandya shouldn't be made to play in any other manner than he does now, no matter the situation. If the management is uncomfortable with the idea of him walking in on the back of early wickets there are a couple of options. Again, Dinesh Karthik can come into the lineup to add a layer of solidity down the order (No.7) if Pandya fails at No.4. If India lose wickets early Dhoni/Karthik can walk in at 4.

5. Rishabh Pant (could be an injury replacement)

Many people, including former England cricketer Michael Vaughan, felt that India needed an X-factor like Pant in the World Cup squad. He was named as an injury standby and with Dhawan out, India have the option of bringing him in. Although he has been called out for lacking in temperament to play at No.4, India could really use an enforcer in the middle overs. While the progression of India's run rate backs up India's approach of a batting innings, one of the top 3 won't always get a big score at a good clip.

That's where a flamboyant batsman in Rishabh Pant can come out and lift the scoring rate. While that may seem like a risk, India have the reliable Dhoni as a fail-safe. Pant can also be sent in as an opener with a free hand as a straight swap for Dhawan. With Rohit generally taking time to settle, a batsman who can score quickly at the other end can relieve some pressure. In pitches where there is help for the bowlers initially this may backfire, but India still have the option to send in Rahul in such circumstances.

One thing a team can't afford to do is being too rigid with the batting order. The way the One Day game is played nowadays warrants situation-based decisions rather than set plans. This doesn't mean plans are overrated, it just means they need to be changed according to the match progression. This is where India are gifted with many viable options.

Tags : #IndvsNZ # Indian Cricket Team # cricket # World Cup 2019