Why Vijay Shankar's heroics are an alarm bell for Ambati Rayudu and Rishabh Pant
As the saying goes, 'cometh the hour, cometh the champion'.
You may perform in patches and find a place in the team. However, if you perform impactfully even in just one game, you get the world's attention for sure.
Vijay Shankar is perhaps in a situation. Life does strange things. If the Hardik Pandya-KL Rahul controversy had not taken place, we would not have been talking about Shankar. But as they say, all that happens is for a reason. India may have found a star in the making, though there's still a long way to go. Shankar with a first-class batting average of 47 would not have thought that he would win his country a match with the ball.
His bowling skills are an added bonus. Clearly, Shankar is not a genuine all-rounder. He's more of a batsman meant to give you some overs of seam bowling. However, this skill has been missing in an Indian side for years. Perhaps, after the retirement Sourav Ganguly, no one from the top or middle order has given India a decent seam-bowling option.
Given his batting, there is no doubt that he is a secure option at the highest level. He's a great fielder too. However, if you add his bowling to all this, Shankar becomes a great asset. India has had spin-bowling all-rounders batting in the top 6, but a seam-bowling all-rounder will be an exciting prospect.
This skill gives him an edge, but he still is a work-in-progress as far as his bowling is concerned. Now if we look at his batting, he has looked as good as anyone. He's got all the shots, confidence in his strokeplay and a sound technique. He showed that in the T20I matches in New Zealand. However, what overwhelmed all of us was the ease with which he was playing in the second ODI against Australia in Nagpur. When he was batting, the pitch did not look sluggish as he scored a free-flowing 46.
He certainly has the required batting skills and has made the most of the opportunities he has got. In the second ODI at Nagpur, he performed with both bat and ball in pressure situations.
India was three wickets down for not many runs on the board when he got promoted in the batting order. He ran well and hit the ball well too. Even with the ball, he delivered in a crunch situation. He has given everyone a glimpse of his temperament, which is key in big tournaments like the World Cup.
Now with a claim to bat in the middle order, the pressure is on the likes of Ambati Rayudu and Rishabh Pant. Rayudu has had two failures at No 4 in this series. Although he has not done much wrong, he has not sealed his place either. The situation is the same with Pant. Pant has not played regularly but has failed to make the most of the opportunities that have been given to him.
As far as the second keeping option is concerned, India may even look at Rahul who can play the role of both a backup opener and a backup keeper. In such a situation, Pant will be under pressure.
Even for Rayudu, except the 90 that he got against New Zealand at Wellington in tough circumstances, he has not delivered under pressure. So with Shankar coming along nicely, Rayudu will be worried as well.
Shankar has the ability to rotate strike and hit the big shots. He plays spin well too. So, he does have the qualities for a middle-order batsman. Whether or not, he gets selected for the World Cup squad, a future star was born.