Kolkata, April 10: India will kick off their campaign at the ICC World Cup 2019 on June 5 when they take on South Africa at the Rose Bowl, Southampton. Though the two-time champions look a complete side in various aspects, one issue that has kept them worried is finding a suitable hand at No 4.
Virat Kohli's side has tried hard to find the best man for the crucial batting position but yet there is no final solution in sight. India have no more international games ahead of the WC and will have to take a chance to find the best bet for the tournament.
India banked heavily on Ambati Rayudu for the No 4 position but he hasn't impressed, especially in the last series against Australia. The alternative is now to push down captain Kohli one spot although a lot of experts are not liking the idea of tinkering with the top three. The other option is pushing Mahendra Singh Dhoni up the order to No 4 but then it could expose a comparatively inexperienced lower order.
Since the end of the last World Cup (2015) held in Australia and New Zealand till the end of India's home series against Australia, the Men in Blue have tried 12 batsmen in the No 4.
Rayudu has played 14 innings in the No 4 position, scoring 464 runs with one hundred and two fifties while Dhoni has played 12 innings at No 4 to score 448 runs with three fifties. Rayudu, despite his failure of late, has a decent average at No 4 (over 53 till the end of India's tour of New Zealand) while Dinesh Karthik has an average of 52-plus at No 4 from nine innings (264 runs; two fifties).
Other batsmen who have had good averages at No 4 in the last four years are Ajinkya Rahane (46.66) and Yuvraj Singh (44.75) though neither of them have played in limited overs for India for over a year now. Rahane might still make the cut in the WC squad if the selectors think there is a need for a technically accomplished batter to man the No 4 in the English conditions but for 37-year-old Yuvraj, the chances are bleak.
Rahane has scored 420 runs in 10 innings at No 4 with four fifties while Yuvraj has scored 358 runs from nine innings with one century and one half-century.
The other batsmen that India have tried at No 4 position in the last four years are Manish Pandey (183 runs from seven innings with one hundred); Hardik Pandya (150 runs from five innings with one fifty); Kedar Jadhav (18 runs from three innings); Manoj Tiwary (34 runs from three innings); Virat Kohli (30 runs from three innings) and Rishabh Pant (16 runs from 1 outing). Of these batsmen, Pandey and Tiwary are not in the race for a WC berth even though they have slammed hundreds in that position in the past while Jadhav is a settled No 6 and Pandya is playing more as an all-rounder batting down the order.
Pant is still not a certainty and that leaves Rahul and Kohli as India's only other alternatives. Rahul's unimpressive form on the international stage makes his WC call still doubtful while Kohli's record at No 4 is quite pale compared to that in No 3 although he has an average of 56 plus at No 4 (63 plus at No 3). Kohli has played 38 innings at No 4, compared to 166 at No 3, scoring 1,751 runs as against 8,743 at No 3.
Another comparative stat shows that the more teams go for changes at No 4, the more their performance at that position gets affected. While teams like New Zealand, England, South Africa and Bangladesh have high batting averages at No 4 (till February 2019), sides like India, Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have less than 40 average in that position.