India are among the favourites to clinch the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup but there is still concerns over who will grab the much-debated no 4 slot in the team.
Options have been limited for the position at two down with KL Rahul and all-rounder Vijay Shankar as likely contenders.
Chief selector MSK Prasad had earlier backed Shankar for the role, picking him ahead of Ambati Rayudu in the final World Cup squad. While Rahul made the cut as a reserve opener, his brilliant outing during the recently-concluded Indian Premier League has made him a viable option.
Asked to pick between the two, Sanjay Manjrekar said he would persist with Vijay Shankar and see how the Tamil Nadu player adapts to the role first.
“I want to see Vijay Shankar to begin with and see how he handles it. Because Rahul is more suited to No. 1 and 2. Very rarely he has batted at No 4, and when he did that, he did not look to me like a No 4. Rahul is a No 1 or 2 player who can be a replacement at the top,” he was quoted as saying by Mumbai Mirror.
“Why I said that because No 4 is a batsman who has to be fluid, who puts the ball into the gaps, handles spin well...and is wristy too. He has to have all the gears to handle situations like 20/2 or 220/2. Rahul always opened and Shankar has had a career in the middle-order. So, I will go with Shankar to begin with,” he added.
The Men in Blue will take on New Zealand and Bangladesh in their two warm-up games and Manjrekar said it was the perfect opportunity to test the depth of the middle order.
“I think they should look to solve the No 4, 5 and 6 issues. Find who are ideally suited for those positions. The guy who can score 6-7 runs an over without taking risks is needed. That has to be India’s way to play. At the moment there is only Virat, who takes 6-7 runs without taking risks or without playing in the air. If they find another batsman like that, it will be more a solid line-up,” he explained.
India begin their campaign against South Africa in Southampton on June 5. Ahead of the team’s departure to United Kingdom, skipper Kohli hinted that handling pressure will be key to India’s success in the quadrennial event.
Manjrekar said if they perform to their potential, there’s no side that could stop them. “If India play to potential, it will be the best team in the tournament. My reading is that India are the strongest team. They got weaknesses which I feel are at No 4, five and six. But temperamentally, which Virat also kept mentioning, we are very strong.
“The World Cup is completely different. India are the best in ability to handle pressure. Because they won the World Cup twice, they know what is needed to be done on the big stage,” he said.