Ranking the Indian cricket team's 5 best No. 4 ODI batsmen over the last 30 years
- The Indian cricket team have struggled with the number four position in recent times.
- Two active players make this list, while the other two have retired from all forms of cricket.
It is not uncommon knowledge that the Indian cricket team have struggled with the number four position in recent times in the ODI format.
In limited-overs cricket, batting at the number four position can be extremely tricky. Often, the opposition's pace spearheads have wreaked havoc early. The number four batsman, relaxing hitherto, finds himself rushing for his gloves and jumping down the stairs hastily.
This situation demands circumspection from the middle-order linchpin. While a valiant rearguard action from there on could change the complexion of the game, a loose shot could well trigger a batting implosion.
Sometimes, the opening pair comes out all guns blazing and mounts an enormous first wicket partnership. When he get his chance, the number four batsman now has the blueprint ready. He has to step on the accelerator right from the outset and provide the final burst.
In this list, we rank five of India's best number four batsmen over the years, who have seamlessly navigated between these two polar opposite roles, and held India's batting line-up in good stead:
1. Mohammad Azharuddin
There's more to Mohammad Azharuddin than the spot-fixing scandal which marred his cricketing journey. He was a cricketer par excellence. Gifted with unbelievably supple wrists, the right-hander mesmerised one and all with his fluent strokeplay whenever he took guard.
Moreover, his wristy technique enabled him to rotate the strike effortlessly- a factor which is central to a batsman's success at the arduous number four position.
Having begun his international career on an emphatic note by slamming three consecutive Test centuries, Azharuddin carried his rich vein of form into white-ball cricket and made the number four slot his own. The former India skipper amassed 4605 runs- the highest for any Indian batting at two drop- in 137 innings, averaging a healthy 40.39.
During his stint at number four, he compiled 33 fifties, but could only cross the magical three figures thrice.
The middle-order bulwark resurrected the ship when the top order got blown away cheaply, and would also deliver blistering cameos when the foundation was already laid upfront. Hence, considering both the statistics and the impact factor, Mohammed Azharuddin dominating the list comes as no surprise.
2. Yuvraj Singh
When on song, Yuvraj Singh was amongst the most delightful batsmen to watch. The flamboyant southpaw had that confidence and swagger about him. Though sometimes he would look all at sea with his footwork and timing, on days when he clicked, he could demolish the greatest of attacks going around in world cricket.
It was this game-changing X-factor that made Yuvraj an extraordinary number four batsman. Yuvraj batted two drop for the best part of his career and bolstered India's middle-order firepower like no other.
Ranking just behind Mohammed Azharuddin in the leading run-getters list for India at number four, Yuvraj aggregated 3384 runs in 107 innings, averaging a competent 35.25. He slammed 6 hundreds and 17 half-centuries while plying his trade at number four.
Yuvraj carved his own niche as a middle-order swashbuckler who could drop anchor when trouble arose, up the ante at will, or even finish things off in style. Yuvraj brought an unprecedented exuberance to India's batting arsenal and became the cornerstone in India's escalation from underdogs to world-beaters.
3. Rahul Dravid
Rarely is any list of Indian greats compiled without the inclusion of the legendary Rahul Dravid. The spine of India's middle-order for over a decade, Dravid invariably rescued the side when the chips were down. He possessed an innate ability to withstand pressure, and though he wasn't the most belligerent of power hitters, he utilised his stroke-making prowess to wonderful effect.
Batting at number four, the experienced campaigner delivered the goods more often than not. He scored 3226 runs in 101 innings, averaging a decent 35.45. Though there's no escaping the fact that a tally of two hundreds and 25 half-centuries in over a hundred trips to the crease can't be categorised in the 'phenomenal' bracket, Dravid's contributions transcended numbers.
On numerous occasions, he would walk in with the opposition right on top, bide his time to stabilize the innings, and progressively ensure respectable totals. While chasing targets, he was cool as a cucumber, constantly mentoring the junior players and stitching crucial partnerships to guide the team home. In essence, when Rahul Dravid occupied the crease, a sense of calm and security was instilled in the dressing room.
4. Virat Kohli
Though Virat Kohli has achieved demigod status across the globe batting at his customary number three position, he has intermittently pushed himself down the order to accommodate youngsters like Shreyas Iyer or KL Rahul at one drop.
Having walked in at number four on 39 occasions during his career, Kohli has scored 1767 runs at a phenomenal average of 55.21. The batting genius also boasts of 7 hundreds and 8 fifties at the number four position. Among other advantages, Kohli batting at number four can prevent collapses by providing stability to the middle-order. He can also boost the scoring rate by running hard between the wickets and finding the odd boundary with ease.
If one analyses purely based on runs scored at number four, Kohli falls behind Dilip Vengsarkar and Sachin Tendulkar on the list. But it's Kohli's sheer ability to switch gears smoothly and dictate terms to the opposition which makes him a better pick.
His strike rate seldom drops lower than a hundred and he can be ruthlessly destructive in the slog overs. These attributes ensure that Kohli ranks higher than the aforementioned veterans.
5. Shreyas Iyer
The game of musical chairs for the number four slot seemed endless until Shreyas Iyer was given a crack at the all-important position. The selectors had experimented with at least a dozen candidates, and still, the conundrum remained far from resolved. Having racked up truckloads of runs in the domestic competitions, Iyer proved the selectors' best bet at number four.
During his short international career, Iyer has displayed maturity beyond his years. The highly-rated youngster has struck the perfect balance between caution and aggression to suit the rigours of the number four spot. Though he only has 8 one-day innings under his belt playing at two drop, he has stockpiled a terrific 398 runs and averages an exceptional 56.85.
Iyer has 4 half-centuries and a whirlwind hundred against New Zealand embellishing his credentials. Such brilliant exploits have seen Iyer scale new heights and become an indispensable part of India's middle-order structure.
What works in Iyer's favour is his prodigious six-hitting ability, which allows the dynamic right-hander the luxury to get his eye in before teeing off. Besides, Iyer tackles spin exceptionally well and hardly finds it difficult to keep the scoreboard ticking. With age on his side, the sky is the limit for India's latest batting sensation.