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Vijay Shankar to Fill No.4 Blank? KL Rahul Likely to Open as Dhawan's Injury Causes Forced Reshuffle

Being India's opener in Tests, KL Rahul seems to be the likely choice to partner Rohit Sharma in Shikhar Dhawan's absence.

Rohan Gopakumar | News18.com

Updated:June 13, 2019, 12:12 PM IST
Vijay Shankar to Fill No.4 Blank? KL Rahul Likely to Open as Dhawan's Injury Causes Forced Reshuffle
(Photo Credit: Reuters) Shikhar Dhawan's untimely injury has landed Team India in a fix, with the Number 4 position flooded with alternatives.

The Indian team could not have hoped for a better start to its World Cup campaign as its Plan A worked perfectly in the first two victories over South Africa and Australia, but in-form opener Shikhar Dhawan’s injury is a massive blow to the two-time champions.

The southpaw, whose record in ICC events is impeccable, is certain to miss out on India’s next few matches and could even be ruled out of the World Cup after suffering a fracture on his left thumb.

Although Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri are hopeful he would get fit in time for the final league game against Sri Lanka, the teams’ alternative strategy would be put through a stern test in the meantime, starting with by the feisty New Zealand attack which is ready to ask a few probing questions in overcast conditions at Trent Bridge on Thursday.

Dhawan’s injury will have a spiralling effect on Team India’s batting order.

Though Pant's arrival shall fill up the void in the squad itself, how will the cohesion in the playing eleven be reconstituted? Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan comprise one of India's most successful opening partnerships in ODIs, with 4681 runs from 103 ODIs, superseded only by the legendary pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. Who will replace the southpaw at the top of the batting line-up?

Being India's opener in Tests, KL Rahul seems to be the likely choice to partner Rohit. However, it remains to be seen whether the Rahul-Rohit dynamic would as deadly as the Rohit-Dhawan combo until the match actually plays out.

The transition from the middle order to the opening slot for Rahul, just as he was making a claim to the coveted No.4 spot in the lineup, will be tough as he will once again have to adjust to facing the new ball. It could also affect Sharma’s rhythm, since he must be used to having the left-hander on the other end.

Meanwhile, another pivotal question that haunts India like a spectre, concerns the Number 4 conundrum as Rahul ends up at the top of the batting order.

The Indian team management had only finalised on Rahul being the first choice to walk out to bat after Virat Kohli during the warm-up games as the position has been unsettled for a long while now.

Ahead of India's upcoming matches against New Zealand on Thursday and Pakistan on Sunday, Vijay Shankar and Dinesh Karthik seem to be obvious choices.

Shankar has proved his mettle with a knock of 45 under pressure against the Kiwis earlier this year, as well as a 41 ball 46 against the Aussies, plus he could serve as a seam bowler, to boot. But he is not a specialised batsman. Karthik, on the other hand, is seasoned veteran and his experience provides added advantage.

However, Team India's decision to fly out Rishabh Pant to England casts a dark cloud over Shankar, Karthik as well as Ambati Rayadu, whose international career seems to be as good as over.

If the team wants to go for the time-tested option instead, Captain Cool MS Dhoni could fill in KL Rahul's stead. Not only does he qualify on all fronts, he has returned to his usual truculent self as of late, which augurs well for the team.

He smashed two half centuries from the last two games and even a century in the warm-up match, virtually holding up a collapsing batting line-up. With Hardik Pandya being India's designated finisher at the moment and Kedhar Jadhav to provide back-up, Dhoni could nurse his innings over a sustained period too.

When all is said and done, India has lost its only southpaw. This would undoubtedly have an effect on the batting order. Yet, India is a long way from ruin. With a dazzling squad that keeps moving up the rungs time after time, a well-pondered shuffling ought to restore the minor lapse in cohesion dealt by Dhawan's injury.

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