CHENNAI: Who will be No 4?
The question has been asked many times. India wanted to convince the world that whoever is picked for the spot is good enough. Ambati Rayudu is gone. Dinesh Karthik is out of favour, at least for now. That leaves us with KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey.
An unwritten policy of the selection panel and the team-management has been, when their original preferred candidate for a spot is back after missing a few matches, he takes his spot. No matter how good the replacement has performed or if decisions should be taken keeping the future in mind. It ensures that players don’t feel insecure while coming back from injuries.
But that is for other spots. What about No 4? With Shikhar Dhawan back, he should be opening with Rohit Sharma. Where does that leave Rahul, who was the original choice for the spot at the World Cup? Going by the above pattern, Rahul should reclaim his spot at two-drop, with Pant going down a slot or two.
But is it where India needs Rahul? He wasn’t an original pick for No 4 anyway. More than the middle-order, India will be needing him to face the new ball sometime in the future. That is his role. Back-up opener now, he has the potential to be the first choice.
That is why it will be interesting to see who walks in at No 4 on Thursday when India take on the West Indies in Guyana. By logical means, the team management and the selectors should try out one of Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey in that position, even if it means benching a talent like Rahul.
Most of the confusion over that position in recent times arose out of the indecisiveness and the inability or unwillingness to take bold decisions, which led to lack of clarity over roles.
Alongside No 4, they also have to nurture Pant to fill the hole to be left by MS Dhoni. In the handful of limited-overs games he has played, the Delhi wicketkeeper hasn’t shown that he can play the role of a finisher. On Wednesday, his unbeaten 65 helped India cross the line in the third T20I and offered glimpses of what he adds to this team. That is what the team expects of Pant.
“He’s got a lot of skill and talent. But it’s about winning and finishing games like these and gaining confidence, which he wants to do as well. It’s about giving him a bit more space to ease himself into international cricket and not putting too much pressure because of the way he’s played in the IPL.
"At the international level, you need to tackle pressure differently and play yourself into the whole set-up. He has come a long way since he started. If he plays like this more regularly, he has the potential to shine for India,” Kohli said.