‘Playing Rahul, Iyer, Pant difficult...': Ex-selector ready to drop India vice-captain for Bangladesh ODIs
Rahul is the designated vice-captain of the Indian side, meaning leaving him out of the XI won't come to the Indian team management's mind that easily. Former India selector Saba Karim, however, feels it is difficult for Rahul to make it to the India XI for the series-opening ODI on Sunday.
The last time Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, and KL Rahul featured in an Indian ODI XI together was in March 2021. Take that three-match ODI series against England at home out, we have to go further back to January 2020 against Australia to find these four batting stalwarts in the same XI. In total, there have been only 15 ODIs featuring Rohit, Kohli, Dhawan and Rahul in an Indian ODI XI. This narrates a clear story. It's difficult to slot all of them together in the XI without hampering the balance of the side.
However, the upcoming three-match ODI series against Bangladesh might see the four of them play together again but how? Whenever Dhawan, Rohit and Rahul have played in the same XI, Rahul has never opened. To be fair to him, he has achieved a fair amount of success batting in the middle order too. He had made the No.4 and 5 slot his own when he was given the keeping duties for a brief period. But now that he has made his intentions of not donning the gloves, at least in ODIs, clear, Rishabh Pant has to play.
If Dhawan, Rohit open for India and Kohli slots in at No.3, should Rahul bat at No.4? Then where will Shreyas Iyer, who has had a prolific run in this format this year, go?
To make matters more interesting, Rahul is also the designated vice-captain of the Indian side, meaning leaving him out of the XI won't come to the Indian team management's mind that easily.
Former India selector Saba Karim, however, feels it is difficult for Rahul to make it to the India XI for the series-opening ODI on Sunday. "I look at him more as an opening alternative to Dhawan and Rohit. He's just a classy player. It's just a matter of time when he can strike form. Having said that, I really don't know at what number he will come in. If not as opener, do we use him in the middle order? If we do, can we give him a long rope there because there are so many other contenders there. This is something that needs to be settled as soon as possible by the captain and the team management," he said in a select media interaction organised by Sony Sports Network.
The former India wicketkeeper-batter made it clear that Shreyas Iyer will be his preferred No.4 ahead of Rahul. He also highlighted India's need of wanting a sixth-bowling option in the top six. In the New Zealand ODIs, Sanju Samson was dropped to accommodate Deepak Hooda for his bowling abilities in the last two matches of the series.
"Playing all three (Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant) seems difficult. When you have Virat Kohli coming back in the mix. He will bat at No.3. Then suppose you put Shreyas Iyer at No.4 then you are left with only two spots. India are now looking to have that sixth bowling option from their top six. If that is the case then that leaves very little space for one more middle-order batter to come in. I'll look at Iyer because he has done very well in the New Zealand series as well. He should occupy the No.4 spot, then you are left with Rishabh Pant at No.5 and then you need to have one more bowling option at No.6," he added.
"It'll be a very crucial series for Shikhar Dhawan. I hope that without the extra responsibility of captaincy, he will come good. He and Rohit Sharma set a wonderful platform for the other batters to come in. One should also not forget that in ICC tournaments, Dhawan has been a great performer for India. That is one reason I believe the team management still backs him to go come good. With Rohit alongside him, I hope he does well. This right and left combination has worked well for India."
[Watch the LIVE coverage of Bangladesh vs India - 1st ODI on SONY SPORTS TEN 5 (English) SONY SPORTS TEN 3 (Hindi) & SONY SPORTS TEN 4 (Tamil & Telugu) channels on 4th December 2022 from 12:30 PM]