The Indian cricket team is struggling with a persistent issue that has been plaguing the One Day International (ODI) series for quite some time now. The problem lies at the critical number 4 position, a slot that has seen a revolving door of players but none who have been able to firmly establish themselves in the role. This issue was admitted the Indian captain franklyRohit Sharma, who expressed his concerns about the volatility of this vital position ahead of the Cricket World Cup.
The No. 4 position in the Indian ODI team has been a matter of concern following the departure of Yuvraj Singh, a stalwart of Indian cricket who had made the position his own. Since his departure, the team has struggled to find a suitable replacement. Several players, 12 to be exact, have been tried out for the role, but none have been able to cement their place.
On Tuesday, August 15, former coach Ravi Shastri revealed that during his tenure as coach, he had considered the idea of playing Virat Kohli at No.4 and even discussed it with the selectors.
“If Virat has to bat for four, he will bat for four in the interest of the team. You know, there were times when I thought about it. Even in the previous two World Cups, when I was the coach in 2019, I thought I might have discussed it with MSK who hit the four just to break that top line-up,” Ravi Shastri told Star Sports.
Has Ravi Shastri made a fleeting suggestion to the current team management, led by Rahul Dravid?
Virat Kohli has predominantly batted at No.3 in his ODI career. 210 of his 265 ODI innings have come at No. 3 and 10,777 of his 12,898 runs have come at No. 3. However, Kohli has played at No. 4 significantly — 39 innings and has scored 1767 runs, including 7 hundreds at an average of 55.
Having a batter of Virat Kohli’s experience at No.4 can solve a lot of issues for India. Should Shreyas Iyer, who has bowled predominantly at this spot (20 from his 38 innings) in the recent past, miss the race against time to be fit for the World Cup, India have to look elsewhere. Even if Shreyas Iyer recovers his fitness and doesn’t reach the highest level before the World Cup, giving the Mumbai batsman the crucial spot could be a cause for concern.
In fact, Ravi Shastri argued against reinstating KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer to the ODI squad, citing lack of match practice. The two players, who were injured and underwent surgery earlier this year, have been training at the National Cricket Academy, playing simulation matches since early August.
TEMPTATION OF TILAK
A left-field option might be Tilak Varma, who showed incredible composure on his memorable debut in a T20I series against the West Indies. Tilak may not have played an ODI but the 20-year-old has an incredible List A record. Plus, he’s left-handed!
Several former cricketers including Ravi Shastri himself, has supported Tilak Varma to reach the World Cup mission. He can also roll his arm, which was evident in the 5th and final T20i against the West Indies in August.
“Very Very impressed with Tilak Varma. And I want a left-hander. If I’m looking for a left-hander, I would really look in that direction,” Shastri added.
However, will India be bold and add the youngster to their ODI squad with as many as 9 matches remaining for the team before they face Australia in their World Cup opener on October 8?
Giving Virat Kohli the No. 4 slot might take a lot of convincing. Unfortunately, neither Ravi Shastri, who came up with the idea, nor the current team management, led by Rahul Dravid, have tried Kohli at No. 4. Since the start of 2016, Kohli has been fielded at No. 4 only twice – once in 2019 and 2020 and managed 23 series.
Cut to 2007, then India captain Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell made a surprise move by dropping arguably the best opener in ODI cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, at No. 4. West Indies and Sri Lanka at home, before taking over the role in India’s disastrous World Cup campaign. The decision to drop Tendulkar from the order was aimed at providing stability to a middle order that looked shaky. Robin Uthappa entered the top 3 along with Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly while Rahul Dravid won under Tendulkar.
Limited to 2023, India need experience in the middle order as they look primed for a second consecutive ODI World Cup. The top character of the batting line-up has remained and there are hardly any changes in the team’s approach since the 2019 World Cup.
However, even a player with Virat Kohli’s experience might take time to adjust to the new role. Kohli’s experience player,. At the same time, he may be well equipped to handle a crisis situation if he comes at No. 4.
Virat Kohli batting at No.4 will also open a slot for a left-hander like Ishan Kishan to bowl higher up the order. India yearned to have a left-hander in the top 5 and it was evident when they tried Axar Patel at No.4 as part of their eleventh hour experiments in the West Indies.
India can go with the trio of Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan in the top 3 if Virat Kohli comes in at No.4.
Will team management accept the call? Will Virat Kohli sacrifice his position? Questions, many of them, remain as time runs out ahead of the home World Cup campaign.
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