India won the one-day series’ in Australia and New Zealand rather comfortably and are considered one of the favourites to clinch the World Cup in England later in the year.
But the one area of concern for the Indian team has been the number 4 spot in the batting line up and coach Ravi Shastri has hinted that skipper Virat Kohli may drop down a spot in the quadrennial event depending on the playing conditions.
“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),” Shastri said in an interview to Cricbuzz.com
“Yes, 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,” said the 56-year-old.
Kohli has been superb at the number three spot for India, dominating run chases. However, India has struggled in seaming conditions if they lose the top three early and the middle order has to build the innings from scratch, something they struggled to do against New Zealand in the fourth ODI.
“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)?,” said Shastri.
The India coach also hinted that he would prefer a line-up that would bat deep during the World Cup. “The best ODI sides in the world have proper batsmen at numbers 5, 6, 7, 8. Look at the Indian team in 1983, or even in 1985. Then, look at the 2011 Indian team. You had Suresh Raina coming in at number seven, and he won you games (against Australia in the quarter-final and Pakistan in the semi-final). With Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni and Raina at numbers 5, 6, 7, no side could relax. So when you have Hardik Pandya coming in at number 7 or even at 8, the opposition cannot relax,” he added.
Shastri, however, chose not to give a direct answer to the question about Rishabh Pant’s chances of making the world cup squad and said the last couple of slots would be decided on the basis of the players’ performance in the Indian Premier League.
“As far as World Cup plans are concerned, we will have to see. Selectors will discuss that. Pant has been playing for India A and he is coming here (New Zealand) for T20s. We will have to see. As far as selection for the World Cup is concerned, this process will carry on till the last minute.
“We will see one month of IPL form as well. So, current form will be crucial. We have to really consider form when selecting the side, or for the 1-2 spots that are left,” he added.