Amongst various other things, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri’s reign in white-ball cricket might be remembered for its quest of finding an ideal number four batsman to balance the team. According to many, one of the reasons behind India’s eventual downfall in the 2019 Cricket World Cup was due to the instability in the batting line up caused by an uncertain number four batsman.
With India’s major limited-over challenge being the upcoming T20 Cricket World Cup, whose fate is still undecided, the management needs to quickly learn from their mistakes and finalise a solid squad to take on the world’s best. Needless to say, India has enough firepower to scare the best of bowling attacks and here we take a look at four players who can make the number four spot their own ahead of the T20 World Cup.
Out of the 22 T20I matches Shreyas Iyer has played for India, he’s got an opportunity to bat at number four nine times. His record at that position is impeccable, having scored 250 runs in those nine innings at an extraordinary average of 50. Since the 2019 World Cup, Shreyas has been a regular for Team India and it seems like the management is backing him for the number four spot.
He has the game needed for that crucial position and has the ability to adapt his style according to the match situation. Being handed over the captaincy of the Delhi franchise in the Indian T20 League has definitely helped the 25-year-old mature as a cricketer, something that can prove to be a boon for India in the near future.
The situation Rishabh Pant finds himself currently in is startling. From starting as the number one choice in the Test format, where he became the first Indian wicketkeeper-batsman to score two centuries away from home in Australia and England, he finds himself suddenly warming the bench. He is one player who should have been given an extended run prior to the 2019 World Cup, which didn’t happen, with Pant finding himself in one of the toughest conditions possible when he was played at number four in the all-important semi-final.
Pant’s record in the T20I format is also unsatisfactory, where he is yet to translate his domestic cricket form to the international stage. KL Rahul has recently emerged as the number one keeper choice in that format. The 22-year-old has the ability to whack good balls for sixes and can be a devastating batsman, but he needs to learn to keep a level head while playing his innings. A great one for the future, we hope Pant utilizes the lockdown to get his mojo back.
Manish Pandey’s record in T20Is is absolutely stunning. He averages 47.13 with the bat and strikes at 128. This impeccable record, however, hasn’t always come at number four for him. He averaged 29.62 in the 12 innings he has played in that position and has scored just a single fifty, that too way back in 2017.
T20 is a format which needs fluidity in the batting order and needs players who aren’t stubborn but has the ability to adapt themselves to critical situations at different times. Pandey is someone who provides that flexibility to the team and we believe the 30-year-old should certainly be included in the trip to Australia for the T20 World Cup.
Another player who has been around for quite some time but has failed to make the cut for the Indian team is Sanju Samson. He made his debut back in 2015 but has featured for India only four times till date. He struggled in all those four games with his highest being only 19. However, Samson’s exploits in the Indian T20 League shows what kind of potential he truly has with the bat. The 25-year-old has scored two centuries in the league and has hit the best bowlers in the world for big runs.
Predominantly an opener, Samson doesn’t have much chance of making that spot his own on the international stage with the likes of KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan being the front-runners. Thus, the one chance he has of making it into the team is as a middle-order batsman and given the vacancy at number four, his talent and batting prowess can prove to be crucial for India.
Though these are the top contenders for the number four spot, India has another way out where Dhawan and Sharma can open the innings, with KL Rahul coming at three followed by captain Kohli at four. However, you can’t approach a T20 game with rigid thinking and thus, it will be interesting to see who eventually makes the trip to Australia for the T20 World Cup.
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