Shikhar Dhawan’s Injury Starts the Number 4 Debate, Again
With the news coming in that Shikhar Dhawan might be sidelined for three weeks due to a thumb injury that he sustained against Australia, the whole debate around India’s number four is all set to gain momentum once again.
KL Rahul, who had laid his claim to the number four spot with a century against Bangladesh during India’s warm-up games in all probability will be moved up the order to replace Dhawan. And Rahul surely won’t be complaining, He is a natural opener and prefers to open the innings or come at first down.
But with Rahul moving to the opening slot, the number four spot would again be up for grabs.
It will be deja vu for the Indian team management.
After finally solving the number four conundrum, Team India had heaved a sigh of relief when Rahul struck century against Bangladesh. But, it looks like the Shankar or Karthik debate might return to the fore.
The only time Shankar batted in England this time around was against Bangladesh in the second warm-up and could only manage two runs. Dinesh Karthik also hardly made his presence felt with the bat in the two opportunities he got.
So, Rahul’s selection was a no-brainer.
But now again if a vacuum is created after Rahul’s elevation, the BCCI has to literally make a choice between the devil and the sea as both batsmen are not going through the best of forms.
BCCI in a Fix
In that case the other option available is to make a new addition to the existing 15-member squad at the expense of an injured Shikhar Dhawan. But naming a replacement means Dhawan can no longer be part of the squad and can only make a return if another player is injured.
BCCI surely is at a crossroad but If they decide to take that road, at this moment there are at least four contenders to replace Dhawan.
The Replacements Available
The ICC doesn't have any specific stand-by list as such and anyone could replace a current player based on approval from the event technical committee. But the Indian selectors had named a list of stand-by players before the World Cup, comprising Ambati Rayudu and Rishabh Pant, apart from Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma and Navdeep Saini.
There has been enough discussion regarding Pant, Rayudu and the number four spot before the World Cup.
With both Shankar and Karthik not being able to do anything extraordinary in the limited opportunity they got, Pant or Rayudu can always lay their claim now.
Mumbai batsman Shreyas Iyer's name is also doing the rounds as he is a specialist No.4 batsman, which is the need of the hour. Iyer was in good touch with the bat during the IPL and has enough experience to succeed at this level.
Iyer scored 463 runs in 16 matches for Delhi Capitals this season.
Another interesting option for the BCCI would be Ajinkya Rahane, who can bat at the top as well as don the role of a number four batsman. He might not be as fluent as a Dhawan or a Rahul but can end up being the best possible bet.
Rahane is already in England, playing county cricket for Hampshire, since last month.
Rahane has played well for Rajasthan Royals this season at the top of the order, scoring 393 runs in 14 matches. He also had a great start for Hampshire. Against Nottinghamshire, he scored a 119 in the his first-ever match for his county side.
Stuck With Shankar and Karthik
At this moment, BCCI has decided to keep Dhawan in England and monitor his progress.
Dhawan just returned to form against the Australia and even if he manages to recover for the knock-out stage in competition, the team management won’t hesitate to bring him back in the playing XI at that stage of the tournament, being the impact player he is, especially in the ICC tournaments.
The only thing confirmed now is that Dhawan would be not be in action against New Zealand on Thursday (13 June) and Pakistan (16 June). In that case it looks like Indian team will have to decide between Shankar and Karthik and might need to tweak their middle-order a bit.