Catch 22: What is the solution for the No.4 Roulette?
The Indian team has begun the English summer on a successful note by winning T20 series. However, there are a few problems lurking around, which need to be addressed; it has more to do with the batting department.
When we muse about the number four batting slot — we think about the greats of the game, the likes of Mahela Jayawardene and Abraham Benjamin de Villiers. No.4 is the bridge between the top order and middle order. It provides a delicate balance in the batting line-up. After Yuvraj Singh's exit, more than 8 players were tried, but, none of them succeeded in making the no.4 position of their own, and India's aspiration to fix the chink in the armour has heightened more with the World cup at the door!
Whoever bats at this position needs to build their innings based on the situation of the match. You neither want them to be a tonker nor a dead bat. This is the prime reason why over the years Yuvraj had been impeccably successful, batting at this position. Now, King Kohli has got to find his successor.
In World Cup in 2011, Virat played that role beautifully. Gautam Gambhir was the third opener back then, so he played at no.3, and each player descended in batting order accordingly. Came World cup 2015 and we found Ajinkya Rahane occupying that throne.
Albeit, after 2015 there were strings of players who were tried but none of them really made their mark. For a while, Yuvraj Singh was again trusted for that place until the final of Champions Trophy 2017.
At home games against Australia, Hardik Pandya was sent as a floater to destroy the spin attack. Having said that, he wasn't perpetually consistent. Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer played some games too and then team management entrusted Kedar Jadhav until he got injured.
Then, after IPL 2018, Dinesh Karthik, by virtue of being a consistent performer, occupied that spot. Then came the question: where should KL Rahul bat? It goes without saying that he is too good a player to be sidelined. Especially, his sparkling performance in IPL that made team India to bat him regularly at top order in T20I.
During this ongoing tour of England, Virat made a selfless move and gave up his batting position — the position from which he broke historic records. And guess what! Rahul did not disappoint and went on to make his second ton in T20Is.
We anticipated Rahul to play at top of the order in ODIs but it did not happen and again he found himself in roulette. The fact is, there no permanent no.4 in this current Indian team. This team always had played according to the need of the hour and in the time of Gary Kirsten, it worked as a treat.
Having said that, the current team needs the stellar player to bat after Virat Kohli and the quest has become 'holy grail.' Nonetheless, KL Rahul has shown his liking to play in top order but Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan had done enough to secure their slots.
Whenever he bats at number four he looks like 'fish out of the water,' but for now, Rahul will bat at a treacherous position that had said to be revolving too many players, and which needs to conquered for good. Then and only then will India be all set to lift the World cup trophy for the third time.
KL Rahul is ravenous for runs and hitherto, his flame is burning the brightest; the management should do well to handle him. From where things stand, he needs to make the no.4 position his own niche.