Vijay Shankar was ruled out of the 2019 ICC World Cup on Monday with a toe injury, bringing a premature end to what was supposed to be a career-defining tournament for the Tamil Nadi all-rounder.
Having worked himself up the Indian cricket team’s pecking order in the last 12 months, Shankar’s exit from the World Cup feels like an anti-climax.
Selected ahead of the likes of Ambati Rayudu in the team as India’s preferred No 4 batsman, the selectors had shown great faith in the all-rounder who had a fine start to the year.
ODI debut and useful contributions
Shankar was beneficiary of Hardik Pandya’s injury that was followed by a suspension for his comments on a TV show. Being a right-hand batsman and a bowler that can bowl medium pace, Shankar was initially seen as a back-up to Pandya.
Having featured in T20Is for India in 2018, Shankar made his ODI debut in January earlier this year when India were touring Australia. On his debut, the 28-year-old didn’t get an opportunity to bat, but bowled a tidy spell, conceding just 23 runs in his six overs.
He was given an extended run in the team for the three ODIs against New Zealand that followed. He was not needed with the bat in the first two ODIs where he was used sparingly with the ball, but in the third ODI with India in trouble after a top-order collapse, he made a useful 45 to take India to a score of 252.
Then in the home series against Australia, Shankar impressed with the bat scoring 120 runs in four matches and also chipped in with the ball. He may not have racked up the runs in that series against Australia but the all-rounder had a strike rate of over hundred in three out of the four knocks in that series.
Shankar may not have announced his arrival in ODI cricket in style but left a mark with his utility.
World Cup selection
The highest point of Shankar’s brief career came when he was picked for India’s World Cup squad in April.
The selectors who had tough choices to make couldn’t overlook Shankar’s recent exploits with the bat and decided to go with the all-rounder ahead of the experienced Rayudu.
Trusted as the man to fill in the problematic No 4 spot, Shankar became a key figure for the Indian team on the flight to England.
In between his selection in the World Cup squad and the eventual tournament was the Indian Premier League. Playing for the Sunrisers Hyderabad, Shankar failed to have a big impact as he only played six matches. He scored just 105 runs in six matches while bowling on just one occasion all season.
His poor performance in the IPL made the Indian team management have second thoughts over Shankar’s ability as the team’s No 4 batsmen and was dropped from the team’s first match in the World Cup against South Africa
Poor World Cup and injury
Shankar sat out of India’s first two matches against South Africa and Australia as KL Rahul was preferred over the all-rounder for the No 4 position. It was only after Shikhar Dhawan got injured and Rahul was pushed to the openers’ slot that Shankar was drafted in the team.
The 28-year-old had a good World Cup debut as he bagged two crucial wickets to derail Pakistan’s chase, picking up the opening wicket for India on his first-ever World Cup delivery.
However, scores of 29 and 14 in the next two games against Afghanistan and the West Indies repectively, increased pressure on him to retain his place in the side.
Eventually, an injury he sustained in the nets while facing Jasprit Bumrah, brought curtains down on a fairly average World Cup for Shankar.
A year that started on such a positive note seems to have taken a turn for the worse for Vijay Shankar since his selection for the World Cup. With injury ending an uninspiring World Cup for the Tamil Nadu all-rounder, one wonders when his next chance in blue would come.