Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul, Vijay Shankar – the list is endless of the No 4 holders for India in ODIs in the last two years. But if the recent West Indies ODI series is an indication, India may have finally found their solution to the No 4 woes – Shreyas Iyer.
Shreyas Iyer, who was forgotten after making just a few appearances for India, has made a strong case for himself for the No 4 slot ahead of Rishabh Pant, who batted at that position in the limited-overs series against West Indies.
Iyer made two fifties in as many innings in the ODI series against WI. On the other hand, Pant failed consistently, managing just one fifty in five innings at No 4 in both ODI and T20I series combined.
Shreyas batted at No 5 in the ODI series and proved to be a great partner for captain Virat Kohli to take India across the finish line to win the ODI series 2-0.
Cricwizz makes a comparison of Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant to understand who’s better suited at No 4 for India in limited-overs cricket.
Iyer showed better temperament needed to play in the middle-overs to guide the team across the finish line in the ODI series. He played according to the situation and didn’t let the pressure get the better of him.
In the 2nd ODI against WI, he played second fiddle to Kohli to build a match-winning partnership for India. He mixed caution with aggression as India posted a winning total. He showed great temperament and game awareness to help India sail across the middle-overs in the company of Kohli.
In the third ODI, Iyer even overshadowed Kohli in pursuit of quick runs to keep the required run-rate under control. But he didn’t go for ugly slogs and threw his wicket away.
In contrast, Pant did just the opposite. Coming in at No 4, he was supposed to show better game plan and play a student to Kohli. But he perished trying to attack both the occasions he batted for India in the ODI series.
The dismissal in the third ODI was unforgivable as he miscued a slog. He played a reckless shot when a wicket had just fallen and India needed to consolidate. Pant’s temperament is questionable, especially when the chips are down and India need to rebuild, something which Iyer expressed brilliantly.
Some may argue Pant has high batting skills than Iyer. But that’s a misconception. Just because Pant can smash those big hits consistently and with great style and power, he’s considered a highly skilled batsman. He may be entertaining to watch, but 50-overs cricket or even T20 cricket need skills of all nature, not just the big-hitting.
The skills to find gaps, play risk-free shots depending on the situation, and bide your time if things get difficult and make merry when the ball is in your court are as necessary as the big-hitting skills.
Iyer boasts of such skills and hence, he becomes an ideal candidate to play at No 4. He’s someone who can not only anchor the innings but also go for big hits if the situations demanded.
In the case of Pant, he knows only one way to play cricket – see the ball, smash it.
Pant is known to be inconsistent as he plays high-risk cricket as he goes for his shots early in the match. He plays his attacking game irrespective of the situation. He believes he plays better that way. And that is his biggest bane.
If he can learn to curb his natural instincts and instead focus to play cricket as per situation, keeping the team’s interests in mind, he can go on to become a champion cricketer. Pant can be an excellent finisher lower-down the order when quick runs are needed, but at No 4 he’s doubtful on various counts.
In contrast, Iyer’s batting style which focusses on accumulating runs through rotating the strike, hitting the bad balls for boundaries, and keep the situation of the game in mind, makes him an ideal candidate for the No 4 spot.
Fresh at No 4?
At No 4, Pant may be too early to bat as he keeps wickets too. If he keeps for 50 overs, and then he’s called in to bat suddenly at No 4 if two wickets fall quickly, Pant may not be fresh or in the right frame of mind. And that may hamper his game and to play as per the job requirements of No 4.
But Iyer has no such dual roles. He’s a specialist batsman who can milk the bowling attack as per the needs of the match and the team. He will be fresh despite fielding for 50 overs. He can rescue the team from an early collapse and build on after good starts. And Pant can late come down the order, unleash his big strokes to finish the game on a high.
Hence, Iyer, and not Pant, is the best batsman for India at No 4 in limited-overs cricket. But Iyer should be given a longer rope to stake his claim for the spot.