Why India should field Vijay Shankar in the 3rd ODI against Australia
Vijay Shankar has been drafted into the Indian squad for the ongoing three-match series against Australia. The series is nicely poised with both the teams winning a match each and are headed to play the final One-Dayer at the MCG on January 18. Shankar joined the squad late after India’s first choice fast-bowling all-rounder in Hardik Pandya was suspended owing to the comments made by him on a chat show.
With no Pandya, the balance is undoubtedly disturbed, and India fielded only five specialist bowlers with no decent 6th bowling option in the first two ODIs. It is always a risky strategy to field only five bowlers, as if a particular bowler has an off day, it can cost the team an entire match. Mohammed Siraj, who made his debut at Adelaide, had an off day and it nearly cost India the game if not for the brilliance from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Virat Kohli, and MS Dhoni.
After burying the ghosts of the Nidahas Trophy final, Vijay Shankar has had a decent stint with the India A squad in the past six months. The Tamil-Nadu all-rounder recently powered India A to a 4-wicket win over NewZealand A, scoring an unbeaten 80-ball-87 in a superbly scripted run chase. Shankar also bowled with an economy of lesser than five runs per over.
He followed that knock with a 56-ball 59 in another successful chase at the same venue and then ended the series with a 42-ball 43, helping India post a formidable total and win the series in New Zealand. He was the highest run-scorer in the three-match series, scoring more than India's formidable top order which included the likes of Shreyas Iyer, Mayank Agarwal, Ishan Kishan, Shubman Gill, and Manish Pandey.
Vijay is technically a more sound batsman than Hardik and can even bat like a proper batsman at number 5 and 6. So he has certainly made a strong case for himself going into the decider at Melbourne, and it would be the right decision if the team management includes him in the playing eleven.
However, Virat Kohli will be in a dilemma as to who should make way for Vijay Shankar. Both, the likes of Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik have done nothing wrong, and it will be unfortunate if either of them misses out in the 3rd ODI.
Cricket Australia, too, have dropped their Test specialist Nathon Lyon, who went wicketless in the first two ODIs and have included wrist spinner Adam Zampa. It will be an interesting game on Friday and India will be better off having the 6th bowling option in either Kedhar Jadhav or Vijay Shankar owing to the significantly sized boundaries at the MCG. If India win, Virat Kohli will achieve a rare double in Australia - a feat not achieved by any visiting side. The match will take place on January 18th.