The ‘number four conundrum’ has haunted the Indian cricket team repeatedly since the 2015 ODI World Cup. No player was able to claim the role as the Men in Blue prepared for the 2019 World Cup in England.
The then-India skipper Virat Kohli had also hailed Rayudu as India’s best option for the global tournament at one point. Interestingly, India’s designated number four batter was left out of the national squad for the marquee tournament.
In the beginning, KL Rahul was selected to bat at two down for India, but after Shikhar Dhawan was ruled out due to a fractured thumb, Pandora’s box of India’s incompetence opened up, and the Men in Blue struggled to determine who should be the number four batsman at the most important moment.
The inexperienced Rishabh Pant who was not even on the team sheet at the start of the high-profile tournament was suddenly playing two down and unable to perform.
India’s coaching staff has changed, its captain has changed, and there are many fresh faces in the camp, but one thing remains the same: the number four conundrum. As the 2023 World Cup approaches, the Men in Blue are still far from finding a solution. Here are the players who could finally answer the question.
We take a look at the contenders for India’s number four slot ahead of the ODI World Cup 2023:
5. Sanju Samson
In Indian cricket, Sanju Samson is one of the best batters. He has amassed 3526 runs in 138 matches at a strike rate of 135.72 in the Indian Premier League.
He has been a game-changer with the bat for years, but there has been a tinge of responsibility added to his eye-catching stroke play of late, and it has shown in the international arena as well.
Samson has played six ODIs for the Men in Blue in this calendar year and scored 179 runs at a strike rate of 158.40. In ODIs, Samson has scored 284 runs at a strike rate of 105.57.
Depending on the situation, Samson is able to switch gears quickly. Due to his excellent spin and pace skills, the team management will look to give the wicketkeeper-batter game time at number four, given he has performed well for India in the middle order. As a Trivandrum native, he has all the potential in the world to succeed.
4. Suryakumar Yadav
After making his T20I debut, Suryakumar Yadav has taken the world by storm. Putting on an exhibition of 360-degree stroke play, the 32-year-old dismantled top-quality batting lines for fun. The Mumbai batter has played 42 T20Is and scored 1408 runs at a strike rate of 180.97.
In his dream run with the bat, the ace batter has nailed India’s number four slot in the shortest format, and the T20 World Cup 2022 was a prime example. He smashed 239 runs in six games at an insane strike rate of 189.68 at the T20 extravaganza with India two down.
The ace batter has not been at his best in the 50-over format, scoring 384 runs at an average of 32.00 in 16 matches, but he has been in pristine form, so his numbers are expected to improve. As a result, the 360-degree batter could solve India’s ODI number four conundrum.
3. KL Rahul
Rahul has been a prolific batsman for India in white-ball cricket. As a T20I player, he has played 72 games and scored 2265 runs at a strike rate of 139.12. As an ODI player, he has scored 1665 runs in 45 games at a strike rate of 87.86.
In the 50-over format, Rahul, who is India’s designated opener in T20Is, has adapted well to the middle-order role. Batting at two down, the flamboyant batter has scored 209 runs at an average of 41.80 in six games.
Indian vice-captain has the ability to adapt to changing situations. With his stroke play, he can take any bowling line-up to the cleaners when the team is in trouble.
Due to his batting prowess, the team management could stick with Rahul in the build-up to the next year’s marquee event, given his fit for the number four role in the 2019 World Cup.
2. Rishabh Pant
Since the 2019 World Cup, Pant’s stock has soared in the international arena. From a promising youngster from Delhi to India’s first-choice wicketkeeper across formats, the 25-year-old has come a long way.
He has played some blistering knocks on the big stage for India in ODIs and Tests. In Test Matches, Pant has played 31 games and scored 2123 runs at an average of 43.32. In the 50-over format, Pant has played 30 games and scored 865 runs at a strike rate of 106.65.
In 16 One Day Internationals, India has used the wicketkeeper batter at number four, and the swashbuckling batter has scored 492 runs at a strike rate of 97.61.
In the middle phase of the game, Pant provides a left-handed option and can counter leg-spinners and left-arm off-spinners. As a long-term prospect to bat two down in ODIs, the southpaw has done well for the Men in Blue across formats.
1. Shreyas Iyer
There is no doubt that Shreyas Iyer is one of the top contenders to bat two down for India. Since he first donned the Indian jersey, the ace batter has been quite impressive in 50-over formats. So far, he has played 36 ODIs and scored 1428 runs at an average of 49.24.
Iyer has stabilized the ship when India has been in dangerous waters and has anchored the innings beautifully. As well as his elegant stroke play, the ace batter has displayed an aggressive side to his game on several occasions in the international arena.
This year, the Mumbai-born batsman has scored 615 runs in 14 ODIs at a superb strike rate of 95.49. Iyer could ace the number four slot in the lead-up to the marquee tournament in 2023 given his current form.
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