India vs Australia 2017: Virat Kohli reveals reason behind Hardik Pandya's promotion up the batting order
What's the story?
Indian captain Virat Kohli has explained the thought process behind the team's decision to promote all-rounder Hardik Pandya up the batting order. Lauding the 23-year-old's technique and ability to bat according to the situation, he went on to hint about the experiment continuing in the future as well.
"For now, it (Pandya's promotion in the batting order) has been to go after the spinner - probably push the spinner out of the (bowling) attack and get their quicks to come into the game earlier. He's done that (role) well in the last game. And this game as well, he batted pretty nicely," Kohli said at the post-match press conference.
The skipper added, "It might be a regular option in the future, you never know. The guy (Pandya) has got a solid game. He's got a good defence, he's got technique and (he) is not just a slogger. If he gains more confidence and understands how to take the game till the end and finish more often, he might be a regular at that spot as well. To mention about flexibility, we are just doing that at the moment where we are not predictable. We are willing to do different things to try and upset the rhythm of the opposition in some way possible."
Even as their top three have more or less sported a settled look over the course of the last few years, the number four position in the batting lineup has been a major issue for India. The team management have tried different options such as Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav and KL Rahul without much success.
The heart of the matter
Since the decline of Yuvraj Singh and the waning of Suresh Raina's prowess, India's middle-order has appeared to be vulnerable on quite a few occasions. While the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Rahane and Virat Kohli have been able to consistently put on massive partnerships, the 'Men in Blue' have struggled to connect the top-order with the lower-order.
While he came in at the fall of the fifth wicket during the first two ODIs in the ongoing series against Australia, Pandya was promoted to number four in the third and fourth matches. The hard-hitter immediately responded by smashing a 72-ball 78 at Indore. He was looking set to take India to another victory in the penultimate game at Bengaluru before a miscued shot ended his stay at the crease. Nevertheless, his 40-ball 41 was one of the few positives for India from their 21-run defeat to the Aussies.
With India leading the series by a 3-1 margin, the team management are likely to continue with the experiment of Pandya at number four when they take the field for the final ODI at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur on Sunday.
Even though it can be argued that the fragile lower-order needs Pandya's services more, the all-rounder should continue to bat at number four for the time being in order to enhance the sense of responsibility in his game. The current experience of batting up the order will hold him in good stead when he dons the finisher's role in the near future.