03 August 2019
New Delhi: Having struggled through the World Cup without a fixed number four batsman, the Indian selectors — led by M.S.K. Prasad — decided to pick Shreyas Iyer for the tour of Windies and it will be interesting to see if the team management plays the Delhi Capitals skipper at the integral slot or continue with wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant. For the record, K.L. Rahul is also an option now that Shikhar Dhawan is back at the top of the innings.
While Pant batted at that position for India in the second half of the showpiece event, one must remember that he will also be keeping wickets in the Windies tour as there is no M.S. Dhoni in the playing XI.
Considered one of the best batting units in the modern era, India's effort to produce a quality number four batsman failed over the last two years. While the team management looked at different options, it was felt that Ambati Rayudu filled the shoes to perfection. This before the selectors decided to ignore him for the World Cup. Instead, they went in with all-rounder Vijay Shankar.
Even though Shankar beat Rayudu to the slot, it was Rahul who was handed the responsibility at the start of the showpiece event. But an unfortunate injury to Shikhar Dhawan saw Rahul being promoted to the top of the order and Shankar being drafted in at number four.
But that arrangement also didn't last long as Shankar injured himself and it was finally left on Pant to bat at the crucial position. While he did show determination and played some handy knocks, to bat up the order after keeping wickets could be a tough task.
Coming into the Windies series, it was always going to be a case of experimenting with that slot and there was in fact a competition between Shubman Gill and Iyer. But Iyer beat Gill to the slot and chief selector Prasad said: "He (Gill) was given an opportunity when Rahul was out against New Zealand, he will have to wait for his turn."
Batting coach Sanjay Bangar came under the scanner for failing to produce a number four batsman going into showpiece event despite being with the team for quite some time now.
Speaking to IANS, a senior BCCI official had said that the constant chopping and changing in the middle-order was something that had hurt the Indian team not just in the World Cup, but over the last couple of seasons. And for Bangar to not be able to find a solution is something that reflects poorly on the coach.
"It was a constant struggle," the official said. "While we are all supportive of the players and they had a good tournament with the exception of this bad day in office (in the semi-final against New Zealand), the support staff's processes and decision-making will surely be scrutinised thoroughly prior to any decision being taken about their future.
"The batting coach must have answers for the number 4 question since it is obvious that it was the team management that was asking for certain players to be included."
The Windies tour will be an opportunity for the team management to give the all-important number four slot another go. Whether it will be Iyer or Pant or Rahul that only the team management can answer. But for now, it is a three-way battle for the slot and is definitely the biggest riddle that Team India needs to solve.