India may have defeated West Indies in the one-day series at home. However, that wasn’t really on surprising lines. The Men in Blue have been dominant over the Windies in recent years. That said, the series did not do much to solve India’s No.4 woes. It began in the lead up to the 2019 World Cup, and the search for a proper two-down batter is yet to end. India went into the ICC event with an unsettled middle-order and paid the price for the same. Over the last few years, India have tried numerous players at the No.4 position without settling on one. With the 2023 World Cup coming up, we look at five contenders for the No.4 slot in India’s one-day squad.
1. KL Rahul: If Shikhar Dhawan is fit and in form, he will open the innings with Rohit Sharma in the 2023 World Cup. As such, KL Rahul will have to bat in the middle-order. Of all the contenders, the vice-captain seems best suited to take over the No.4 spot. Rahul can rotate the strike very well and can switch gears when needed. He showed versatility with the bat during the 2nd ODI of the series against West Indies when he featured in that impressive stand with Suryakumar Yadav to lift India from 43 for 3. Given his ability, Team India must make Rahul feel comfortable at that spot heading into the 2023 World Cup.
2. Rishabh Pant: He can be an interesting choice. India have tried him at various positions in all three formats with mixed results. While there is no doubt that Rishabh Pant can be a match-winner on his day, it is equally true that he is unpredictable. In short, with the left-hander, it is often a case of all or nothing. As such, having Pant at No.4 can be a proposition fraught with risk unless, of course, he can discover some consistency in the batting leading up to the 2023 World Cup. The big question is whether India will be willing to take that risk.
3. Shreyas Iyer: Before he got injured, Shreyas Iyer briefly occupied the No.4 slot. And he gave a very good account of himself. The elegant stroke player has batted at the No.4 position in 13 of his 25 ODI matches. In these games, he has scored 463 runs at a healthy average of 42.09 with a best of 103. He had an amazing run in New Zealand during the tour to the country in early 2020. Iyer played three matches and smashed 217 runs at an average of 72.33. However, he had a torrid time in Australia, managing only 59 runs in three games at an average of under 20. Will the team management be willing to give Iyer another go?
4. Suryakumar Yadav: The 31-year-old hasn’t batted at the No.4 position yet. But in the few games that he has batted in the middle-order, he has made a good impression. Suryakumar Yadav has so far featured in six ODIs and has scored 261 runs at an average of 65.25 with two half-centuries. These are still early days in his international career, but Yadav has shown that he can take responsibility. He is a busy cricketer who can rotate the strike and smash the big hits as well.
5. Ruturaj Gaikwad: This could be an offbeat choice. Ruturaj Gaikwad is an opener, but considering there is no vacancy at the top, he could be tried in the middle-order. The youngster has been in exceptional form with the willow of late. He was the Orange Cap winner for hammering 635 runs in CSK’s IPL 2021 campaign. The 25-year-old cracked four solid hundreds for Maharashtra in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. In case India do not want him to lose out on his precious form, he could be slotted into the middle-order.