In stats | India’s number 4 conundrum: Rayudu, Rahul, Shankar, Karthik—or, Dhoni?
For all the success of the Indian team in ODIs in the recent past—they have won 8 out of 12 matches in 2019 and 14 of the 20 ODIs they played a year before (2 were tied)—their middle order looks quite vulnerable.
With openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma registering the highest opening partnership for India against Australia in their last encounter in Mohali and captain Kohli himself scoring at a breathtaking pace, it’s back to business for India’s top 3.
And though India has tried and tested different players at the number 4 spot, none of them have really been able to cement their name for the spot.
Meanwhile, with the fight still on for Team India's number 4 batting slot for the upcoming World Cup 2019, former Indian cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar believes Vijay Shankar should be considered for filling the position.
Manjrekar said that Shankar's abilities to rotate the strike, besides being quite capable of going big when required, fits him in the crucial batting position. That he could chip in a few overs would be an added bonus.
Shankar, indeed, has looked fluent in the ongoing series. With the option of Hardik Pandya as the genuine all-rounder in the side, the team could very well use Shankar as a specialist batsman.
Ambati Rayudu has become a regular feature in the Indian ODI batting line-up since the Asia Cup. In the 16 ODIs he has played since his comeback—before the Australia series—Rayudu has batted at the number four position in eight of them, scoring 341 runs at an average of 56.83.
But his recent dip in form in the ongoing India v Australia series has put the team management in dilemma. In the three matches that he played, Rayudu has scored only 33 runs at an average of 11.
Dhoni has batted at the number four position in 30 innings scoring 1,358 runs at an average of 56.38, and has a strike rate of over 90. This is his second-highest average batting at any position—at number three he has scored at an average of 82.75.
This would give Dhoni—the most celebrated and criticised batsman—enough time to settle in before blasting off in the final 10 overs. Though Kohli believes Dhoni is best suited for number five, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he is promoted ahead in the World Cup.
One serious contender for the spot is Dinesh Karthik. A dynamic batsman in the middle-order, Karthik looks always busy: if not hitting boundaries, he would always be rotating strike—which is equally important in any contest. His ability to keep wickets as well would surely land him at least in the 15-member squad.
Lokesh Rahul isn’t having the best of times on and off the field. In the three innings that he has batted at the number 4 spot, he has scored just 26 runs at an average of 56.58. He even failed to impress in the ongoing ODI series against Australia, having scored only 26 runs.
But you can never say never!