Ever since Mahendra Singh Dhoni hung up his boots, the BCCI has been keen to fill the void created by the legendary finisher’s departure. Though this has concluded with Rishabh Pant filling his shoes, another catastrophe has struck the Indian team’s middle order. With Hardik Pandya training to be a pace-bowling all-rounder and a finisher for the past 4-5 years, he has been vulnerable to injuries over the last couple of years. These injuries have cost him his bowling abilities, and recently even in domestic leagues like IPL, he has hardly been seen bowling and was more of a specialist batter in the playing 11.
Shardul Thakur, who is known for his knack for picking up crucial wickets, was recently introduced into the team as a bowler and also a promising all-rounder, with his recent handy knocks against England and South Africa. Though he picks wickets, he also leaks a lot of runs in most of his spells. On the other hand, Venkatesh Iyer, who has had a successful run in the second half of IPL 2021 and the Vijay Hazare trophy is also in the race for the pace all-rounder slot. However, his naïve nature orientates him as an opener, more than a middle-order batsman. This nature makes the debate even more dubious.
While this debate has just begun, another problem haunting the Indian cricket team since 2015 is the No.4 slot. The mayhem started with Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh losing their form. This issue cost India three ICC tournaments in a row. To not commit the same mistakes again, they began the rehabilitation phase for the 2019 World Cup with India trying various players. Ambati Rayudu seemed to be the right man for the job but was soon out of contention because of his poor form in 2018 and 2019. Rishabh Pant, although too immature, was chosen to do the honours in the WC and eventually failed to deliver. This issue has become one of the reasons for India’s semi-final exit from WC 2019. After this, BCCI started giving Shreyas Iyer more chances, who was versatile enough to play as a middle-order batsman. Everything went fine until Iyer saw a dip in form during early 2021 and eventually had an injury while fielding, which prevented him from playing any form of cricket for six months. Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan, who have been entertaining the audience with stunning performances in the Indian Cricket League and Domestic Cricket, were given chances and never seemed to disappoint the selectors. Unexpectedly, both didn’t have a good outing in the 2021 T20 WC. Once again, the middle-order muddle cost India yet another world cup. Indian selectors are in a dilemma choosing the perfect contender for the No.4 slot.
Selectors are having a tough time a cumbersome job for the selectors to pick players among the pool of existing ones, whilst new players are constantly knocking on the door to the Indian team with their breathtaking performances. Now, with Rahul Dravid, who has tremendous experience in grooming players, as head coach, we can hope that things will get better at least before the next ICC tournament.