KL Rahul’s Century Could Put Team India in a Fix at the World Cup
Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam
The world seems to be a better place for the Indian team management and cricket fans after Tuesday’s warm-up match against Bangladesh.
KL Rahul, who smashed a handsome century, restored the balance in the Indian batting line-up and in all probability ended the search for India’s elusive number four batsman. However, with Rahul cementing his spot, the prospect of a Vijay Shankar making it to the playing XI appears slim. Even if the duo or either of them make it, it will be interesting to see where they fit in the line-up.
Rahul, peaking at the right time is surely good news for the side but the development has also raised questions about how the new batting line-up would look and what happens to Vijay Shankar if Rahul plays.
Where Does Vijay Shankar Fit in?
There is a reason why Vijay Shankar was drafted in the World Cup squad and identified as a potential number four batsman. In other words, his selection for the Cup was precisely to fill the vacuum at number four.
With Rahul already making the spot his own, the team management now has the unenviable task of accommodating Shankar in the scheme of things, as far as batting is concerned.
And Shankar missing out with the bat due to injury and bad form doesn’t help his cause.
After Tuesday’s match against Bangladesh, two things appear certain - KL Rahul will bat at number four and with the kind of form Dhoni to come in at five. Given his batting form, it would be blasphemous to not play him at five.
With these places already sealed and no question of fidgeting with the top three, the earliest Shankar can come in is at number six. Again, at this position, a Hardik Pandya is a better investment than Shankar. If Kedar Jadhav returns to the squad then both Shankar and Hardik seem unlikely to be in contention for the number six spot.
Remember, Jadeja scored a fifty in the first warm-up match and was more than decent with the ball in the two trial outings in England.
Who Will Now be the Backup Opener?
Both Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are yet to get going in England. The duo had a dismal show in the two warm-up matches. While Rohit scored 2 and 19 against New Zealand and Bangladesh, Dhawan could only manage 2 and 1.
It is a long tournament in England and Wales, with all teams playing nine matches in the league stage. We do expect Rohit and Shikhar to find form soon enough but if that doesn’t happen who will replace them at the top?
If Rahul goes back to his usual position, the number four conundrum might comeback to haunt the side.
It might be too much to ask a Vijay Shankar, who is struggling with an injury as well as with the bat, to open the innings.
The Other Side of Rahul’s Ton
Rahul’s ton was celebratory for many reasons. Finally, Rahul scored a century in national colour after three years. It may not be official, but as coach Ravi Shastri says, “it will do his confidence a world of good”. This is India’s first century in the tournament. The hundred answered India’s number four quest.
Rahul did maintain a healthy strike rate of over 100 for a greater part of his innings but his inability to rotate strike being a number four batsman might end up hurting his and his team’s prospects.
While playing quality bowling attacks in the tournament, Rahul won’t be able to score boundaries at will, the way he did on Tuesday. In that scenario, scoring a run or two off the good deliveries will be very valuable. And in the middle overs, when the boundaries dry up, the ones and twos will very valuable.
Batting at number four doesn’t come naturally to Rahul. He has played all his life at the top of the order in all formats of the game but with the top three spots taken he has no other option.