Over the last few years and ending with the 2019 World Cup, India are still grappling with the No 4 conundrum. The few contenders such as Ambati Rayudu have retired after being snubbed for a World Cup spot. The chosen No 4 Vijay Shankar is injured and not a long-term prospect as No 4.
KL Rahul, who initially batted at No 4 in the World Cup before replacing injured Shikhar Dhawan at the top, is once again not a long-term solution to the problem. The last No 4 Rishabh Pant lacked the patience to deliver at such a vital spot.
In that respect, Indian selectors have chosen a few new candidates such as Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer for the No 4 spot, although they were too tested and tried before being discarded ahead of the World Cup.
But they are back in the reckoning and the Indian team management has to choose the right No 4 and invest in the player to solve the biggest Indian cricketing woes in recent times.
Cricwizz takes a look at the candidates for the No 4 spot and who is the ideal player to bag that place in the limited-overs series against West Indies.
Rahul was chosen ahead of the designated No 4 Shankar in the World Cup in the first few matches. But he did not make most of the opportunity. He got the opener’s role after Dhawan was out of the tournament due to injury. Rahul’s strokeplay is more suitable at the top where he can dominate the bowling attack. In few matches during the World Cup as an opener, he threw his wicket away after struggling to rotate the strike and score runs. It’s a sharp contrast to the (KRA) key responsibility areas of a No 4 batsman. A no 4 has to be the glue around which the batting revolves. And Rahul does not fit the bill.
Pant was elevated to the role in the World Cup. But his inexperience came to the fore, especially in the crunch semi-final against New Zealand where he threw his wicket away after absorbing the initial pressure. Pant can be best used in the lower-order where he can smack the bowling for quick easy runs or play useful cameos in the death overs to get the required momentum in India’s innings. But at No 4, he lacks the skills of an accumulator, a cool head, and the experience to anchor the innings to the final phase of the innings. He is also not the right choice for this spot.
Shreyas was impressive in the few ODIs he played for India. But sadly, he did not get enough opportunities to cement his place. He is back in the reckoning after an impressive five-match series against West Indies A recently. Shreyas has the skills, temperament, and the ability to graft to anchor an innings at No 4. He also has big shots to improve the run-rate.
But he needs a long haul to cement his place in the XI. India should invest in him as he is a batsman for the future. A failure or two should not make him insecure about his place. The team management needs to restore that faith in him.
Manish Pandey is himself to blame for his below-par returns in international cricket. He lost his place due to inconsistencies. After scoring his maiden ODI ton in just his 3rd innings and that too in the tough conditions Down Under, Manish managed just 2 fifties in next 15 innings.
But he is back in the reckoning after an above-average IPL and a brilliant ton against West Indies A recently. There’s no dearth of talent in Manish, but his inconsistencies have been his biggest bane. If Manish can solve this problem, he can play for India for long and resolve the No 4 conundrum from its roots. But that’s easier said than done.
Kohli has achieved Bradmanesque records at No 3 in limited-overs cricket. But the time has come for the captain to undertake more responsibility and steer the Indian batting line-up at No 4. Critics may argue Kohli should bat at No 3 as he can control the innings better.
But Kohli needs to guide the inexperienced middle-lower order at No 4. A youngster in Manish, Shreyas can be pushed to No 3 to get more opportunities to cement their place in the XI while Kohli can bat at No 4 to soak in the pressure in case of collapse and rebuild an innings or lead the momentum to the death overs in case of top-order flourish.
In the past, captains such as Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni have dropped themselves in the batting order to rally the middle-lower order. The time has come for Kohli to move into the next phase of his captaincy career.