ICC World Cup 2019: How Vijay Shankar managed to sneak into the Indian squad ahead of Ambati Rayudu
India's squad for the upcoming World Cup 2019 has been announced, and with it the questions over the much-debated number four have been answered. The 15-member squad looks well-balanced with all bases covered, and it will not be wrong to say that India start as one of the favorites.
Complete Squad: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma (vc), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, MS Dhoni (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya, Vijay Shankar, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami
Over the past couple of years numerous batsmen have been tried at 4, but the point to be noticed is that none of them barring Dinesh Karthik is in the squad. Even Karthik has been selected as a backup wicket-keeper and is a doubtful starter. Karthik's role, if he finds a place in the XI, will be more of a finisher at 6 or 7.
Ambati Rayudu, who Virat Kohli had admitted seeing as India's number 4 in the World Cup four months ago, has only himself to blame as he got out of form at the worst possible time. Not only did he fail to score, his technical deficiencies were also exposed against Australia at home, which put doubts over his place.
The dry patch in the ongoing season of the IPL made it all the more difficult for Rayudu to get into the squad. And Rayudu's loss was Vijay Shankar's gain.
Shankar is now the first choice number four for India in the World Cup. Not even in contention till India's last couple of series before the World Cup, Shankar has gone on to almost cement a place in the starting XI.
The fact that he was able to grab the much-debated number four slot in such limited opportunities, speaks volumes of the confidence the management has in him.
The two counter-attacking innings against New Zealand and Australia, coming in at 18/4 and 75/3 respectively, proved to be the turning point for him. In those two innings, Shankar displayed the class as well as the temperament that India were looking for. Moreover, his ability to switch gears at will gives the management the luxury of batting him anywhere from 4 to 7 depending on the situation.
His form in the IPL has been quite good so far, and he seems to be mature and reliable with the bat.
Shankar has not got enough opportunities as far as bowling is concerned, but his heroic last over against Australia where he picked two wickets and helped India win a thriller proved that he can be handy if the main bowlers have an off-day. In English conditions, Shankar is a very good sixth bowling option, and it is the balance that he brings that has helped his cause even more.
From having no pace-bowling all-rounder in the XI in 2015 to having two in 2019, India cannot ask for a better combination going into the World Cup.
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar / Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah