Question marks over the No. 3 slot in Indian team

A 78-run mauling of Sri Lanka on Friday night saw India’s longest home season of T20Is — with 12 matches, including two abandonments, in four series over the last three and a half months — coming to an end.

As the Men in Blue switch gears into the T20 World Cup preparation, despite India hardly being stretched at home, one cannot help but wonder whether the No. 3 slot in T20Is has emerged as the equivalent of No. 4 in ODIs prior to the 2019 World Cup.

Despite trying out around a dozen options between the ODI World Cups, India still struggled to find a reliable No. 4 at the mega-event. It was one of the decisive factors in the team’s stunning semifinal exit in England last July. The connoisseurs would be hoping the same story is not repeated ahead of the T20 World Cup, to be played in Australia in October-November.

Vaired results

In each of the last six completed T20Is, India has used a different batsman at No. 3. K.L. Rahul (52 off 35 balls, vs Bangladesh in Nagpur), Virat Kohli (94 n.o. off 50, vs West Indies in Hyderabad), Shivam Dube (54 off 30, vs West Indies in Thiruvananthapuram), Rishabh Pant (0 off 2, vs West Indies in Mumbai), Shreyas Iyer (34 off 26, vs Sri Lanka in Indore) and Sanju Samson (6 off 2, vs Sri Lanka in Pune) have all been tried out in the key slot with varied degrees of returns.

No doubt that the ploy is with an eye on trying out different combinations and individuals ahead of the marquee event and with its best XI on the park, India doesn’t really need to look beyond either captain Kohli or Rahul for the No. 3 slot. Perhaps that’s why opener Shikhar Dhawan isn’t concerned about the constant tinkering of the crucial spot.

“I’m sure that the management wants to try players. Today also we wanted to try other players who haven’t batted in the series and give them a fair chance because we’re only left with five T20 games (in New Zealand) and as a team we wanted to give chance to everyone and that’s why they’ve been rotating players. (Hopefully) Till the World Cup comes, everyone is refined and know their job as well,” Dhawan said after marking his return from a knee injury with a sizzling fifty on Friday night.

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