Virat Kohli: Time for India cricket team skipper to bat at No. 4 in ODIs
Virat Kohli’s India are currently dominating world cricket but the skipper must take an important decision in order to sort the team out ahead of tougher foreign tours.cricket Updated: Sep 03, 2017 14:29 IST
India are set for another whitewash after dismantling a woeful Sri Lanka by 168 runs in Colombo. The last three months have been wonderful for Virat Kohli’s men. From reaching Champions Trophy final to registering a 3-1 win over the West Indies to causing the ‘ultimate humiliation’ of the 1996 World Champions. Such has been India’s dominance that Sri Lanka will have to wait for the result of the West Indies ODIs against England, Ireland to ensure automatic qualification for 2019 World Cup.
While winning consistently speaks a lot about a team’s character, it also hides the problems the set-up faces during its time at the top, which could get serious with upcoming tours.
One of them is the “middle-order woes” that need to be sorted out before India’s overseas challenge begins. Although they are yet to lose an ODI series since February 2016, the task will get stiffer.
It seems the only way the management can test a middle-order batsman is if they promote him to open. Typically, it’s their top-order comprising Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli that has done the bulk of the scoring in the last few years. And how many instances one can remember when the middle-order stood up in a tricky situation when the trio failed to get going? Hardly any.
Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Karthik have been inconsistent at No. 4 and that’s why they find themselves on the sidelines. With Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav also performing in patches and MS Dhoni not his old self, it’s time to re-think a strategy that didn’t reap rewards in 2015 but could work this time. Virat Kohli at four.
Situation different from 2014-15
Between India’s tour of England in 2014 to the 2015 World Cup, Virat Kohli batted mostly at No. 4 in ODIs particularly because of his struggle against swinging deliveries.
The move was termed ‘defensive’, designed to protect the team’s best batsman. Some said if the side’s best batsman can’t face the moving ball, how can someone like Rahane, Ambati Rayudu be expected to do so?
Kohli failed in the tri-series featuring England and hosts Australia before the World Cup. With lack of options, he eventually returned to his familiar No. 3 position where he prospered again.
In 2017, the situation is different. India need Kohli at four around whom the rest of the middle order can revolve. He looks more assured in challenging conditions now.
The best batsman also needs to be there in the final 20 overs. Kohli, who can change gears effortlessly, would be ideal. This would also give Dhoni the freedom to be aggressive which is usually not the case as the former skipper sometimes has a less experienced partner.
KL Rahul at 3
KL Rahul is embarking on a difficult journey which is to become permanent across all formats. He has made Test, ODI and T20I tons but has struggled to get going in the current Sri Lanka ODIs, scoring 28 runs at 9.33. Even against England earlier, he failed to rise to the occasion.
But Rahul can adapt quickly and is the best option India can experiment at No. 3. Unlike Rahane - who needs more clarity about his ODI role - Rahul can bring stability. Being the backup wicket-keeper also gives him the edge.
Rahul will have big shoes to fill if Kohli decides to change his batting position. But that’s what Indian cricket needs now.
First Published: Sep 03, 2017 10:01 IST