Rahul’s ton puts him ahead in race for No. 4 spot

Rahul’s ton puts him ahead in race for No. 4 spot

Cardiff, United Kingdom: In the two warm-up matches before their opening World Cup match, Team India’s focus was on sorting out their perennial problem of a reliable Number Four batsman as the contentious issue has been lingering as a number of batsmen have been tried without much success.

The national selectors had earmarked Vijay Shankar, whose selection itself has raised a few eyebrows, as being an ideal choice for the number four spot in an otherwise strong top-order.

But Shankar, who was injured before the first warm-up game against New Zealand at the Oval, failed to live up to expectations after he got out for two against Bangladesh here on Tuesday as Team India won by 95 runs to boost their confidence.

Shankar’s injury opened a window of opportunity for KL Rahul, who basically had been picked as a backup opener. Rahul took the opportunity with both hands by playing a reassuring knock against Bangladesh, leaving no doubt that it will be him at Number 4 when India take on South Africa at Southampton on June 5. 

Though chief selector MSK Prasad strongly recommended Shankar as the best bet at Number Four and backed him by calling him as a player with three-dimensional capabilities -- as a top order batsman, brilliant fielder and a handy pace bowler, there is no doubt that Team Management’s priority was to have a strong batsman at No.4 rather than a bits and pieces player.    

Before the Indian team had arrived, Shankar himself had realised that he needed to give a strong performance to convince the captain and the coach about his prowess at No.4.

“There's a difference between batting at number four and batting lower down the order. How I prepare myself is the real challenge for me. I need to be in good shape and give off my best. The most important thing will be how I play according to the situation. I should be equipped to play in any condition,” Shankar had said about how he planned to go about the impeding responsibility.

Sadly for him he failed to deliver in the only opportunity he got against Bangladesh. Though he batted at No.5, it is highly unlikely that he would make it to the playing XI in the opening game against South Africa.

Despite the huge debate in the media about the Number Four spot, the team management, it seems is cool about the whole issue.

“We aren’t losing sleep over Number Four. In today’s cricket, a batsman needs to be flexible. You cannot tag down a batsman in a particular position. The form of the batsman and the situation of the match determines the batting line-up,” Indian skipper Virat Kohli had said at the pre-event media meet. 

After his superb knock against Bangladesh, it seems Rahul has after all won the race to the Number Four spot for now. But as the World Cup is a long-drawn affair, if Rahul does not live up to the expectation, we may see another twist in the tale. (Pic: BCCI/twitter)