Over the past few years, India's middle-order has braved through a crisis. We've witnessed the rise and fall of truckloads of contenders for the No. 4 and No. 5 spots in ODIs.
Yuvraj Singh, M S Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, Vijay Shankar, Kedar Jadhav, to name a few. Shreyas Iyer and K L Rahul are the most recent additions to the list. We've endured Virat Kohli backing umpteen candidates for those two spots and throwing them under the bus after a few poor outings.
The approach of incessantly experimenting with the playing XI, particularly the middle-order, has had an adverse impact on their morale.
The emergence of Shreyas Iyer has been a colossal relief for the team management and the fans. K L Rahul's adaptability has been a pleasant surprise. After years, there seems to be a consensus amongst cricket pundits on Team India's ideal middle-order for ODIs.
However, the conclusion of the recent India-Australia series has sounded a note of caution, albeit to a fresh consideration. Is Team India utilizing its resources optimally? While it may still be early to term this a concern, I believe India is suppressing the potential impact of some of their players in the middle-order and consequently, not playing its best ODI XI. Here is a look at the factors.
Lokesh Rahul - Where should he should bat?
KL Rahul started as an orthodox opening batsman, with doubts as to his suitability for the shorter formats - ODIs, and T20Is.
Rahul has been a prolific run-scorer in the IPL, winning the Orange Cap in the recently concluded season. He's a certainty in India's white-ball playing XIs, designated as India's white-ball wicket-keeper. He was even appointed Virat Kohli's deputy for the recently concluded India-Australia series.
Although KL Rahul is scoring runs in heaps at No. 5 for India, one must wonder whether his batting mastery is being fully utilized at a position that low. Rohit and Dhawan are indispensable at the top of the batting order, while Kohli cannot be dislodged from No.3. But the only reason KL Rahul doesn't bat at No. 4 is because Shreyas Iyer doesn't seem to be adept at batting at No. 5, which requires him to finish games with the lower order on most occasions.