Shreyas Iyer or Ishan Kishan, Whom Should India Pick in World Cup XI?

ICC World Cup 2023: With ten slots being occupied, two players are fighting for one vacancy in the Indian team.

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The Night in Ranchi

I was disappointed when you missed out on your hundred,” Shreyas Iyer told Ishan Kishan, as the pair celebrated what turned out to be a match-winning partnership.

About a year ago, India found themselves in a precarious position in Ranchi. The big names were all busy fine-tuning their game for the T20 World Cup which loomed large, and subsequently, the onus of winning ODI matches was handed to the – albeit no one said it out loud, officially – ‘second string’ team.

Reeling at 48/2 whilst chasing a target of 279 runs, India were firmly headed towards a second consecutive defeat against South Africa, when Iyer and Kishan combined to stitch a 161-run third-wicket stand. The former remained unbeaten on 113, whilst the latter was dismissed on 93.

It takes two to tango. I hope you’ll get one in the next match,” Iyer added. 

Kishan didn’t, scoring only 10 runs, but equations have since changed significantly in the Indian ODI set-up. As things stand, ahead of another World Cup, the team needs not two, but just one player to tango, with ten others picking themselves. Fighting for that solitary vacant slot are the two compatriots from the triumph in Ranchi – Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan.


The Backdrop

Let’s take a step back before we take a couple forward, and understand how the pair arrived at the position they currently find themselves in.

Following the series against South Africa, Iyer featured in all of India’s next three bilateral ODI series, but missed out on the fourth one, against New Zealand, owing to a back injury.

He made a comeback soon, but unfortunately, was injured again – this time also ruling him out of the Indian Premier League.


Kishan, along similar lines, can consider himself unlucky too, but for very different reasons. With the return of the big names after the T20 World Cup, he found his opening slot fleeting, despite scoring a double-century against Bangladesh.

Yet, he was thrown an ODI lifeline in the series against West Indies as the big names enjoyed time off cricket, and for the second time, the southpaw made the opportunity count. Kishan scored three consecutive half-centuries to all but secure his place in the squad, if not the playing XI.

By the time Iyer's rehabilitation concluded, three players were in the fray for two middle-order positions – himself, Kishan and KL Rahul. The last name, however, wasted absolutely no time in eliminating him from any possible last-minute bout by scoring an exemplary century against Pakistan.

And then, there were two. Problem is, there is place for only one.

ICC World Cup 2023: With ten slots being occupied, two players are fighting for one vacancy in the Indian team.

And then, there were two.

(Photo: BCCI)


The Judgement

Parameter 1 - Batting in Middle-Order

We have laid a few judging parameters to pick our winner, the first, and perhaps, the most important of those being – numbers at middle-order.

Irrespective of whoever gets the nod in the World Cup playing XI, he will have to bat in the middle-order – either at number four or five. Here, Shreyas Iyer holds the edge over Kishan.


Shreyas Iyer at Middle-Order in ODIs:

  • Innings – 30

  • Runs – 1100

  • Average – 41.1

  • Strike Rate – 97.4

  • BASRA (Batting average + strike rate accumulation) – 138.5

Although his first-ever assignment in this format was as a number three, Iyer has since been a reliable figure in India’s middle-order, with 30 of his 39 ODI innings being played at number four or five.

He has scored 1100 runs, including both of his ODI centuries, whilst his strike rate as a middle-order batter is higher than that as a number three.


Kishan, on the contrary, has been forced to mould himself into this role, being a natural opener. His three half-centuries against West Indies, and the double-century against Bangladesh, came whilst opening the innings.


Ishan Kishan at Middle-Order in ODIs:

  • Innings – 8

  • Runs – 221

  • Average – 36.8

  • Strike Rate – 73.7

  • BASRA – 110.5

Albeit, he has not been awfully underwhelming in the middle-order. Only a few days ago, he smashed 82 runs against Pakistan, so be it in an abandoned fixture. Yet, his average dips from 47.6 to 37.8, and his strike rate dips from 102.3 to 73.7 whilst playing in the middle-order, highlighting he might not have mastered the role just yet.


Parameter 2 – Batting Against Spin

Inadvertently or not, India’s World Cup schedule bodes well with the spin contingent of the team. Alternatively, it also implies the Indian batters will need to be at their best against the opponents’ tweakers, which brings us to our second parameter – numbers against spinners.

Yet again, Iyer holds the edge, being among the nation’s finest spinners of spin – so much so that his presence was ‘missed’ by fans aplenty during India’s collapse against Sri Lankan spinners recently.


Shreyas Iyer Against Spinners in ODIs:

  • Innings – 32

  • Runs – 634

  • Average – 79.2

  • Strike Rate – 103.8

  • BASRA – 183

According to numbers, both Iyer’s average and strike rate against spinners are higher as compared to his career average. In the game where he struck his last ODI century – the one against South Africa we had mentioned earlier – the batter scored 54 runs off-spin bowling, with the likes of Keshav Maharaj and Bjorn Fortuin being taken to the cleaners.


Unlike the previous parameter, Kishan’s numbers don’t take a dip here, except that his statistics against spinners are not as impressive as Iyer’s. There have been occasional struggles as well, highlighted recently in the match against Sri Lanka, wherein he scored 33 runs in 61 deliveries.


Ishan Kishan Against Spinners in ODIs:

  • Innings – 15

  • Runs – 422

  • Average – 52.8

  • Strike Rate – 103.2

  • BASRA – 156


Parameter 3 – Recent Form

Beyond numbers, it has often been iterated that form is of essential importance ahead of a multi-nation event, which leads us to our third and final parameter – recent form.

Here, Kishan pips Iyer out. The latter might have missed the majority of the season owing to injuries, but his form over the last one year has not been as spectacular as the former’s.


Shreyas Iyer’s ODI Numbers in Last 1 Year:

  • Innings – 12

  • Runs – 537

  • Average – 53.7

  • Strike Rate – 97.5

  • BASRA – 151.2

He had a series to forget against Sri Lanka earlier this year, not being able to cross the 40-run mark in any of the three matches, whereas, in his comeback match against Pakistan, he could only score 14 runs.


Kishan, at the very opposite end of the spectrum, has been in sublime form, revelling in the purplest of purple patches.


Ishan Kishan’s ODI Numbers in Last 1 Year:

  • Innings – 13

  • Runs – 665

  • Average – 55.4

  • Strike Rate – 105.2

  • BASRA – 160.6


The Verdict

With Iyer having the upper hand on almost all parameters bar his current form, we have gone with the more experienced, and proven option, considering the battle at hand involves the pinnacle competition of the sport.

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