ICC World Cup 2019: Why Vijay Shankar is not a perfect fit for the Indian squad
One year ago, not many would have known the all-rounder from Tamil Nadu called Vijay Shankar. In March last year, Shankar made his international debut. And exactly one year later, he is a prime contender for India's World Cup 2019 squad.
Shankar didn't have a great Nidahas Trophy, but a ban on Hardik Pandya turned the tide for him. He then impressed everyone with his performances which got him picked for the Australian series currently going on.
But which piece of the jigsaw do the selectors find in him?
What the team management wants from Shankar is a bit of a mystery. Let's try to find an answer to it.
For quite a while now, Shankar has been looked at as a back-up for Pandya. Pandya is still a work in progress, but can give you 7-8 overs on a regular basis, if not 10, and play handy cameos down the order. Can Shankar provide these facilities? The answer would probably be "no".
During the New Zealand series, the Tamil Nadu all-rounder time and again showed how handy he can be with the bat. He is in a sense a more complete batsman as compared to Pandya. But when it comes to bowling, he isn't your bowler who can give 7-8 handy overs. We have seen this in the ODIs in Australia and New Zealand, where he bowled only 16 overs in 4 matches, while he didn't bowl at all in the T20s.
There can be another dimension to what the selectors might be thinking about him: a like-for-like replacement for Kedar Jadhav. The pocket dynamo Jadhav has been a revelation. Batting down the order he has played many handy innings, and his golden arm with the ball is the icing on the cake.
We have seen Shankar's batting prowess, so he can be a replacement for Jadhav in the World Cup. But there is again a question mark. Has Shankar been tested enough in the ODI circuit? He hasn't played as a finisher yet, so it would be quite a gamble to directly play him as a finisher in the World Cup.
If the selectors want to have a finisher besides Jadhav, it has to be the experienced Dinesh Karthik. In the limited opportunities that he has got Karthik has been really good. Moreover, it's not always a good idea to pick players who can do a bit of this and a bit of that in ODIs; that works well only in T20s.
Looking ahead at the World Cup squad, the big question looms: who in place of Vijay Shankar?
In my opinion, the player who fits the pack the best is Ravindra Jadeja. He has been with the squad since the Asia Cup last year and was thought to be a certainty for the mega-event. But he didn't get a single game in New Zealand and all of a sudden finds himself out of the Australia series.
It was lucky on his part that Pandya got injured and he once again has a chance to prove his worth in the team.
Why Jadeja over Shankar
Jadeja is a clearly a better all-rounder than Shankar. Jadeja has never really showcased his batting abilities in ODIs but he can play a Pandya-like innings at the death. Also, he will give you 10 overs, so he is the best possible replacement for Pandya.
Another advantage of having Jadeja in the mix is that it provides you an additional spin bowling option. The World Cup is a long tournament; there can be injuries in between or the players might need some rest. Also, with batting belters and short boundaries, the two leg-spinners might have a hard time.
In such a scenario, you could give some time off to one of them and play Jadeja. Even in case you want to deepen your batting, then Jadeja provides that resource.
Yes, without a shadow of doubt, India would mostly play the spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal in practically every match, and that should definitely be the case. But Jadeja in the team provides you a bit of flexibility, which would be useful in a big tournament.
The final decision lies in the hands of the captain and what he exactly wants, as well as the selectors. Whether or not Jadeja gets a game against Australia would also reflect the team management's thought process.