“I get asked all the time that we don’t have this, we don’t have that, but I think we have too much; that’s the problem”
Sourav Ganguly believes India have more than enough options for the much-discussed No.4 spot in ODIs in the lead up to the Asia Cup and World Cup, naming Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul as candidates. He also stressed that there is “no hard and fast rule” about who should bat in which position and players should be flexible.
Soon after Ganguly spoke at an event in Mumbai, both Rahul and Iyer were named in India’s 17-man squad for the Asia Cup, marking their return from long injury layoffs.
“No. 4 is just a number, anyone can fit in,” Ganguly said. “I really don’t think anyone is born an opener or a No. 3 or No. 4. I had started in the middle-order in one-day cricket and was asked to open when Sahin [Tendulkar] he was the captain. Sachin also started at No. 6. when he opened, he became a world-class player.
“So anyone can play at No. 4. There is Virat Kohli for No. 4, there is Shreyas Iyer when he does well in the Asia Cup, there is KL Rahul. India have immense talent.
“I get asked all the time that we don’t have this, we don’t have that, but I think we have too much; that’s the problem. I think for No. 4 what Rahul [Dravid]Rohit [Sharma] and the selectors should decide that this is my No.4 and stick with it until the World Cup.
“A batting slot doesn’t make that much of a difference because you don’t win a World Cup with just No.4. There’s no hard and fast rule that you need someone at No.4, all you have to do is decide and let them play [at that position].”
The No.4 debate had plagued India in the lead-up to the 2019 ODI World Cup, and it’s back again this year especially with injuries to both Rahul and Iyer, who were doubts for the Asia Cup. Rohit had recently admitted that the slot had been an issue “for a long time”.
Since the 2019 World Cup, Iyer has been India’s first-choice number 4, having played the most innings (20) in that slot in the last four years. With his absence this year, no Indian player has had more than three chances at No.4, which has given India a headache.
Upbeat about Bumrah’s comeback
Apart from the returns of Iyer and Rahul, India will also benefit from the return of Jasprit Bumrah, who returned to action in the T20Is in Ireland and was also selected for the Asia Cup, a strong sign that he is fit for his workload ODI cricket .
“He bowled well [on his comeback] And obviously the opposition will be different,” Ganguly said of Bumrah’s return. “But it’s his first tour after a long time and he’s just relaxed. I am looking forward to the Asia Cup. He bowls fast and the netters say he hits the bat hard. I saw him bowl in Ireland and he bowled well.”
India will host the ODI World Cup this year in October-November. The last time they were hosts, in 2011, they won the trophy. But their last ICC title was the 2012 Champions Trophy, in England under MS Dhoni.
“They get to the semi-finals, they play at the WTC [World Test Championship] finals; once they get there they will cross the bridge,” Ganguly said. “I have a lot of faith in this team and hopefully we will see a team that will play the Asia Cup, the Australia series and the World Cup. It is important for everyone to be fit and determined. One knife position or one player doesn’t win you the World Cup.”
After the Asia Cup which runs from August 30 to September 17, India will host Australia for three ODIs on September 22, 24 and 27 before the World Cup begins on October 5. India’s opening game in the World Cup will also be against Australia – on October 8 in Chennai – and it is likely that the same group of players traveling for the Asia Cup will be selected for the World Cup after the squad has been cut from 17 to 15 .
Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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