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How Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant have stabilized India's limited-overs batting order

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
Modified 26 Dec 2019, 16:15 IST

Shreyas Iyer has staked his claim for the number 4 spot in recent times
Shreyas Iyer has staked his claim for the number 4 spot in recent times

In the recently concluded T20I and ODI series between West Indies and India, we saw Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant perform wonderfully, holding the middle order together. Their exploits in recent matches indicate a very promising future for the Indian team.

The search for the elusive No.4

There was a time when India had a perennial problem plaguing their side — the elusive No. 4 spot. India tried and tested so many batsmen at 2-down in limited-overs cricket that even fans lost track of who was playing at that position. It had essentially become — as Aakash Chopra said — "a case of musical chairs" with batsmen scurrying to occupy that one seat in the Indian playing XI. Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Vijay Shankar, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, and MS Dhoni, all were tried for the position, but none for too long.

Due to India's erratic selection policies, the fear of being dropped became prevalent in the dressing room. For any player to flourish, he must be given the assurance of a long rope and be backed. When a player constantly has a sword hanging over his head, he can't perform to his true potential. This assurance was absent for a long time in Indian cricket, especially in ODIs and T20Is, which only created more insecurity amongst the players.

Ambati Rayudu was also tried at No.4 in ODIs and backed by Kohli but was dropped before the World Cup
Ambati Rayudu was also tried at No.4 in ODIs and backed by Kohli but was dropped before the World Cup

However, the winds of change are now blowing stronger than ever before. The appointment of a strong, able, and widely respected BCCI President, Sourav Ganguly, is an excellent sign for Indian cricket. Ganguly is a firm believer of the theory of backing players to the hilt and providing them longer and sufficient opportunities to prove their worth.

The appointment of Sourav Ganguly as BCCI President indicates that Indian Cricket is heading in the right direction.
The appointment of Sourav Ganguly as BCCI President indicates that Indian Cricket is heading in the right direction.

Coming of age in the midst of Caribbean battles

In the recent West Indies Tour of India, we witnessed the Indian batsmen come of age and gawked at the batting unit functioning like a well-oiled machine. 

As the batsmen performed their roles properly, the Indian team was not only able to chase down massive totals such as the 207-5 in the 1st T20I, but also set imposing totals such as the 240-3 in the 3rd T20I and the 387-5 in the 2nd ODI.

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In the first ODI at Chennai, India was staring at another potential batting collapse after the early dismissal of the top order. However, the young pair of Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant joined forces in the middle and ground it out. What we witnessed in Iyer's 70(88) and Pant's 71(69) was exceptional maturity and control that the Indian middle-order had been missing for years. Both batsmen curbed their natural attacking instincts and only went for the big shots when needed.

In the 1st ODI, by partnering up with Iyer, Pant rescued the team from a precarious position
In the 1st ODI, by partnering up with Iyer, Pant rescued the team from a precarious position

When the Indian openers wreaked havoc in the second ODI at Vizag, the middle-order batsmen coming in had a brilliant platform already laid out for them to capitalize on. And boy did they capitalize. Pant assumed his destructive avatar, blazing his way to 39 off a mere 16 balls, with 4 sixes and 3 fours.

Iyer, who had been playing the anchor role for the initial part of the innings, also flaunted his hitting abilities, scoring 30 runs off one over! His 53(32) held the Indian innings together in the middle phase and paved the way for India's massive total of 387-5. They both demonstrated their abilities of batting according to the need of the hour.

Conclusion

Shreyas Iyer has ensured that he makes the most out of the opportunities he gets. In 10 ODI innings, Iyer has scored 476 at an astonishing average of 47.6 with 6 fifties already. He has displayed his extraordinary abilities of rebuilding the innings, defending, rotating strike, attacking the bowlers, and scoring boundaries at will, all of which are needed for a No. 4 batsman.

With a strong temperament and a vast amount of experience in domestic cricket, India A, and the IPL, the Delhi Capitals captain has demonstrated that he has the perfect blend of abilities to succeed as the glue holding the top and middle-order together. Thanks to his versatility, and with an ever-improving, explosive Rishabh Pant alongside him, the 25-year-old can win countless matches for India in ODIs and T20s for a long time to come.

Published 25 Dec 2019, 17:49 IST
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