FIELDING Virat Kohli at number four could address India’s long-standing concerns about a settled batter at that crucial position, former coach Ravi Shastri has said.
Since 2017, India have tried a dozen players at that position, but none could nail it down. Skipper Rohit Sharma has called it “an issue” ahead of the home World Cup in October-November.
Kohli has amassed the lion’s share of his 12,898 runs, which include 39 hundreds, batting at number three in 212 of his 275 innings.
In his 42 appearances at number four, the batsman averages 55.21, slightly below his overall 57.32, and has scored seven hundreds.
Shastri, who was coach of the India team when Kohli was captain, said those were impressive numbers for a number four batter.
“If Virat has to bat at four, he will bat at four in the interest of the side. You know, there were times when I thought of it,” Shastri told Star Sports channel.
He said during the 2019 World Cup – where India lost to New Zealand in the semifinals – he considered changing Kohli’s place “just to break that top heavy line-up”.
“Because if we lose two or three at the top, we are gone and it was proved,” Shastri said. “If you look at Virat Kohli’s record, he is good enough at number four.”
Shreyas Iyer looked the part at number four, scoring both his ODI hundreds from that position, but is recovering after back surgery.
Meanwhile, Indian captain Sharma said he wanted his middle-order batters to show flexibility as no one in the national team “owned” any particular batting position.
Sharma added that every player received clear communication about what was expected of them.
“One thing I need in this team is everyone ready to bat anywhere. Cricket is moving in a different direction. You can step up at any position. No one should say, ‘I am good at this position and that position’. That is the message that has been conveyed to every individual, not now but that’s happening for last two, three or four years,” he said.
“I know it’s tough for you guys outside to understand why a guy who was batting at No 6 is suddenly batting at No 4. It hasn’t happened overnight. He has been prepared for that role. “This is international sport we are talking about.
This is not club cricket. He should be able to bat anywhere that team requires him to. Not like we go off to sleep at night telling a batter a position and next morning we change that position. It doesn’t happen like that,” Sharma said.
Responding to media questions about who would play at No 4, he said, “We have got guys who can bat at No.4. It’s not about No 4. It’s about top three and there onwards, 4, 5, 6, 7 and there onwards and who can win us games. There have been challenges and guys have been put under pressure and that’s a good thing.
“Unfortunately, we had injuries along the line. We had to try out different players and keep in mind workload management and see what combination suits us.
“We have nine ODIs and two practice games and we have lot of games where the guys will get a chance to make the position their own.”
A sterner test for Sharma’s team awaits in the Asia Cup, which begins in Multan, Pakistan, next Wednesday (30). However, India will play their matches in Sri Lanka.