India is on the brink of unveiling its squad for the highly anticipated 2023 World Cup, and the headline-grabber is the triumphant return of KL Rahul, who has been given the green light in terms of fitness. This announcement has set the cricketing world abuzz with excitement, especially considering Rahul’s inclusion in the Asia Cup squad.
While he missed out on the initial two Group A matches due to his rehabilitation, the prospect of his availability for the Super 4s stage, scheduled to commence on Sunday, September 10, awaits India if they advance further. Initially, the prevailing belief was that KL Rahul would neatly slide into the No. 5 slot, filling in for Ishan Kishan.
However, Kishan’s spectacular performance against Pakistan has thrown a curveball into the equation, prompting a lively debate about India’s optimal lineup once Rahul makes his return and whose place he’ll occupy. The likelihood of a fit KL Rahul warming the bench in ODIs appears remote. Therefore, it’s imperative to explore the potential candidates whose positions he might assume.
Let’s have a look at the players:
1. Shreyas Iyer
Shreyas Iyer is the least probable among the trio to be displaced when Rahul reclaims his spot. He’s not only India’s premier player against spin, but he has also resolved their long-standing No. 4 issue in ODI cricket. With an impressive 818 runs from just 21 innings at No. 4, boasting an average of 45.4 and a striking rate of nearly 95.
Shreyas Iyer has solidified his role in the Indian limited-overs setup. It is highly advisable for Iyer to continue at No. 4, with Rahul’s return unlikely to disrupt his position.
2. Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill, despite a recent dip in international form, commenced the year with a remarkable performance, extending his excellence into an outstanding IPL season. His ODI record in India is stellar, amassing 704 runs in only 12 innings, averaging an impressive 64, and maintaining an excellent strike rate of 113.4.
While a portion of these runs came against weaker opposition like Sri Lanka and a second-string New Zealand, Gill’s potential for India cannot be underestimated. Nevertheless, his struggles outside India, notably during the West Indies tour and the initial Asia Cup match against Pakistan, have raised questions.
Considering Ishan Kishan’s superb form, India might consider the opening partnership of Rohit and Ishan, reserving the No. 5 spot for KL Rahul. Yet, Gill’s exceptional home record suggests that India would likely retain the Rohit-Gill opening combination.
3. Ishan Kishan
Ishan Kishan’s inclusion in the World Cup squad was a certainty due to his dual role as a backup opener and wicketkeeper. However, his recent explosive performance against Pakistan while batting at No. 5 has sparked discussions about his place in the playing XI.
Despite his remarkable knock, it’s improbable that Kishan would displace KL Rahul from the No. 5 position, given Rahul’s consistent excellence in that role over the past three years. While the possibility of Kishan opening alongside Rohit exists, he is more likely to be relegated to the bench should KL Rahul return to the lineup.
KL Rahul’s return promises to be a game-changer for India in the upcoming World Cup. The ensuing debate over team composition will undoubtedly continue, but it appears that Shreyas Iyer’s No. 4 spot is secure, with Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan vying for their positions based on current form and strategies to be employed during the tournament.