A lot has been spoken and written about the crucial No. 4 spot in India’s limited overs squad. While the names of Ambati Rayudu and MS Dhoni have been the most talked about, head coach Ravi Shastri is now mulling putting Virat Kohli as the second-down batsman in a bid to ‘protect’ his skipper from the early fire that will target the top-order batsmen.
Kohli has made the No. 3 spot of his own in the limited overs format, while batting as a No. 4 batsman in Test cricket. Realising that the conditions in England would be quite different from the ODI series against Australia and the subsequent Indian Premier League – both scheduled to take place in India – Shastri has admitted that he might make Kohli bat 2nd down to protect him in the early phase of the World Cup.
“The good thing about this Indian top-three is we can separate them, if conditions and situations demand. Someone like Virat Kohli can go to number four, and we can put a good number three to bring more balance to the batting line-up. That’s flexibility for you, and for big tournaments like the World Cup, you have to be flexible to see what’s the best balance for the side. So we will decide that (accordingly in England),” the head coach said in an interview with Cricbuzz.
With Kohli being brought down at 4, Shastri sees Rayudu as the ideal man to replace the skipper at No. 3. Having produced a responsible 90-run knock in the 5th ODI against New Zealand, Rayudu looks set to be given additional responsibility in the showpiece event in England.
“Yes (Shastri’s reply when asked about Rayudu at the one-down position), maybe Rayudu, or someone else, could bat at number three, and Kohli comes in at number four. We wouldn’t want to disturb the opening combination. Separating the top-three could make the batting stronger,” he added.
While the planning has already been started, the 56-year-old said that the final call about the batting order will be taken place after assessing the conditions in England.
“But we will assess that on seeing conditions there in England. You don’t want to be 18-3 or 16-4 in a big tournament. I don’t care about bilateral ODIs, but why should I lose my best batsman early in a World Cup match (if the conditions are bowler friendly)?”, Shastri opined.
Although many have pondered on the possibilities of having Dhoni at No. 4, it doesn’t seem like the former skipper will play at a position other than No. 5 role that Kohli has backed him for.