KL for Shikhar Dhawan; ____ for Rahul
India will have to choose their No 4 wisely to ensure that the one of the top three who is the set batsman by then, doesn t feel inhibited and forced to slow down. The other extreme too isn t ideal where they are forced to accelerate when they don t yet want to. Considering all this, it won t be a surprise if India go with either established players already in the team at No.4 instead of trying out Vijay Shankar there.
But all this hand-wringing is unnecessary when you speak to non-India fans. There is such an overwhelming feeling in England, Australia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka fans sprinkled across this country that India are so dominant they say they laugh at the Indian fans and media s obsession with No. 4. In some ways, even more than the parochial Indian fans, there is more respect and admiration in the others.
A washed-out game against New Zealand though won t help India. Not because of the points accrued, but they would prefer the match practice to fine-tune their new batting order. It allows them to see what Dhoni does at No. 4 if India lose a couple of wickets for not too many and need consolidation. 100/2, say, when batting first. Would he, as some fear, bat too slow at the start? There is not much empirical evidence of it, yet, as he hasn t batted at No 4 in the recent times and it s better to find out now, at this stage in the tournament, than later.
The Indian players couldn t hold a proper net session at Nottingham, a day ahead of the game. It drizzled, not too heavy but enough to make them discard any attempt at bowling. The batsmen faced knockdowns, with the net bowlers standing and throwing the ball them. The weather remains a threat on match day. New Zealand have a pretty good bowling attack with the left-handed Trent Boult as its leader and Ferguson who can crank up the pace. And in Mitchell Santner they have a pretty decent left-arm spinner who can peg away steadily. India will be New Zealand s first big test in the tournament. They did have a few tight moments against Bangladesh but Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, their main batsmen, have helped them get three straight wins. They would fight hard but India should win this.