Vijay Shankar probably batted and bowled himself in Nagpur ODI to a World Cup berth in England. He came on to bowl to defend 11 runs off the last over. He bowled stumps-to-stumps and dismissed the in-form Marcus Stoinis LBW and then Azam Zampa bowled to help India to 8-run win.
Before his bowling cameo, he has batted himself to a crucial 46 and stitched a stand of 81 runs for the fourth wicket with Indian skipper Virat Kohli. This stand was vital to India posting a fighting match-winning total of 250. The two wickets Vijay took were his first in ODIs.
Kohli may have been the man of the match, but India found a hero in Vijay Shankar. Besides, the all-rounder managed to erase memories of his painful innings of 17 in the Nidahas Trophy final against Bangladesh where he played out a maiden from Mustafizur Rahman in the death overs.
So, is Vijay Shankar a near certainty now for the World Cup?
Yes, it’s likely Vijay will be included in the World Cup squad in addition of Hardik Pandya for the all-rounder’s spots. With his bowling coming good finally, Shankar can finally claim himself to be an all-rounder who can be counted on to bowl a few tight overs and take a wicket or two while lending stability in the lower-order with the bat.
Shankar had also played a few vital cameos with the bat in the past to merit a place in the World Cup squad. He scored a vital 45 against New Zealand in the fifth ODI to help India post a 4-1 win. He also scored a quick 43 in the Hamilton T20I in the tall, but unsuccessful chase.
Vijay will face competition from first-choice all-rounder Hardik Pandya for a place in the XI in the World Cup. Pandya will get first preference as the Mumbai Indians is a big hitter of the ball and can give the team the flourish it would need in the death overs.
Besides, Pandya is a better seam bowler compared to Shankar. Pandya can seam the ball on pace-friendly conditions of England. Pandya has not so long ago taken a five-wicket haul in a Test in England. Hence, Pandya makes a better claim for himself for the all-rounder’s spot in the XI in World Cup ahead of Vijay Shankar.
Vijay Shankar better compact batsman than Pandya?
Vijay, however, looks a much better compact and mature batsman compared to Pandya. Vijay can hang in there in face of adversity and can bail the team out as he has done twice so far in top-order collapses in New Zealand and Australia in ODis.
Hence, the team management might choose to go for Vijay if they need to strengthen their batting in seam-friendly conditions of England.
Both Pandya, Shankar in XI in World Cup?
The two can also be played together, but that will be too much of a risk. It means either of them will have to bowl their full quota of 10 overs. And given their tendency to leak runs with the ball, it would be a tough choice to play both in place of a regular pace bowler.
Hence, in all likelihood, India will go for either Pandya or Shankar but the former stands favourite for the lone all-rounder’s spot in the XI for the World Cup. But both look certain at the moment to board the World Cup bus.