Opinion: Why Virat Kohli should bat at no.4 in ODIs
The no..4 position in every cricket XI in ODIs is perhaps the most crucial position in the entire batting order. While on one hand the batsman is expected to accelerate the team's innings, he is also supposed to bring more stability, of course depending on when the 2nd wicket falls.
For instance, if it is 10-2 by the 5th over, the no.4 is expected to face the new ball and build the innings, thereby do the job of an opener. On the other hand, if the scoreboard shows 240-2 by the 39th over, his job becomes akin to that of a swashbuckling finisher in order to ensure that the team ends up at a par score.
While one may argue why risk playing the team's best batsman in such a position, especially someone of Virat Kohli's stature who has already scored over 8000 runs at no.3, the truth is, there's hardly anyone more suited than the Indian skipper himself to bat at that position.
The team has tried with Manish Pandey, Dinesh Kartik, Shreyas Iyer, K.L.Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane and currently Ambati Rayudu but hasn't quite found anyone performing consistently in that position. With almost 30 weeks left for the world cup, the team hasn't found the answer to this problem. Let's also not forget that promoting MS Dhoni at no.4 hasn't worked wonders, especially now that he is a pale shadow of his former self.
So, why Kohli? After all, it has often been argued that the best batsman of the team must bat at the topmost position. Sourav Ganguly admits that Tendulkar wouldn't have been the limited overs maestro that he became had he not opened the innings for India.
True, Virat Kohli might score a tad bit fewer runs than what he could if he were to bat at no.3, but let's look at the bigger picture: India will get a sheet anchor at no.4 while chasing a mammoth target or making one. No batsman in Indian cricket (if not world cricket) is as versatile and can adapt so well as the Indian skipper himself.
Kohli's stats at no.4 speaks volumes of how successful he has been at that position. Of the 37 innings that he has played at this position, Kohli has 1744 runs with 7 centuries and 8 half-centuries to his credit, having remained not out 7 times. He averages 58.13 and has a strike rate of 90.41 which is a tad less than his numbers at no.3. Indeed, a pretty impressive record for the CV of a no.4 batsman.
Also, let's not forget, if history is to be recollected, Indian team has had a huge success when the team's captain has sacrificed his batting position for the team's interests. Be it in the case of Ganguly making way for Sehwag to open the batting or Dhoni dropping himself at no.6 to finish the game for the team.
The question then arises, so who bats at no.3? The position is crucial for the Indian squad. The no.3 batsman's job is risky as he might have to play the role of the opener in case an early wicket falls and protect the team's middle order from the new ball.
In such a situation, players like K.L.Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane are likely to flourish. Both have experienced reasonable success at that position for their IPL franchises as well and have even opened successfully in the limited overs format. India can surely afford to play either of them at no.3 and hope to protect their vulnerable lower middle order from getting exposed, which is yet another headache for Shastri & Co.
Will Rahane's knock of 144* in the Deodhar Trophy final open doors for him in the limited overs side once again?