Who after Virat Kohli? Ajinkya Rahane or Shreyas Iyer!

Virat Kohli on Wednesday asserted that barring the No. 4 spot, the core of the squad is more or less sorted out for the quadrennial tournament in England.

Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane.

Virat Kohli on Wednesday asserted that barring the No. 4 spot, the core of the squad is more or less assembled for the quadrennial tournament in England. So who will bat after Kohli? That was the question every cricket fan and expert had in mind. The three-match Test series was a hard-fought battle, and to a large extent, the Men in Blue relied on their skipper to consistently find ways of rotating strike, which he certainly did in spectacular fashion. Kohli scored 286 runs, which was the highest. He was closely followed by AB de Villiers (211). As the ODI series is underway with both teams locking horns at Kingsmead, Durban, the question has been raised again. Who will bat after Kohli? Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan are the established openers, while Kohli comes in at No 3. It’s the No 4 spot that has been giving India problems of late, with no solid candidate despite plenty of churns.

Kohli, right before the ODI series threw a swing ball into the mix when he included Ajinkya Rahane in the squad. Rahane last batted at the position on January 17, 2016, in the third ODI against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Sadly, he got injured in the next game and that was it. After that, the right-hand batsman struggled to make his mark at his usual spot. The team management had stated that they were looking at Rahane as a backup opener, and not as a middle-order batsman. So with Rohit Sharma, Dhawan and Kohli sealed as top three batsmen, Rahane would bat at No 4. So, does this mean Kolhi has taken the team back by two years when they were in search of a perfect number four?

Since that day at MCG, all of Yuvraj Singh, Hardik Pandya, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer and Kedar Jadhav have batted at the fourth spot for India stretched over 30 innings. The ‘Prince of Punjab’ amongst them had played nine times in that position but is currently out of contention.

KL Rahul is not in the ODI squad and Manish Pandey has struggled. But Shreyas Iyer proved his mettle against Sri Lanka in which he scored over 200 runs in 5 matches. Rahane playing at number four has over 700 runs with five half-centuries with the highest score being 88.

Kohli in the interview said, ”We don’t have too many series and too much time left before the World Cup. We want to explore all the options before the World Cup. I had said earlier that Rahane will be looked at as a third opener, but that situation can change because he has batted at No. 4 in a World Cup before (back in 2015).”

Rahane has been used in all possible positions- be it an opener, one down and middle-order. Due to such constant change in batting position, Rahane has struggled to prove his prowess against the stronger sides. The thing with Rahane is that he finds it difficult to have a good strike rate on slower pitches where the ball does not come on to the bat- something that Dhoni had pointed out during India’s tour of Bangladesh back in 2015. Nonetheless, the next World Cup is in England where the pitch is fast and keeping in mind Rahane is not a bad option for the position.

India need to be patient and give Rahane time to settle down instead of experimenting with the fourth spot. They can always have Pandya and Iyer as the backup option for the fourth spot as both the players have great capabilities to strike the ball hard. Both the players are pivotal to the role and offer a wider range than Rahane. But then again, on Rahane’s day, there is no better man for the No 4 spot.

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