Should Virat Kohli bat at No. 3 or No. 4 at World Cup 2023? Opinion is split on where the former captain should bat.
India's squad for Asia Cup 2023 has five players capable of batting in the No. 4 role, namely, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma and Sanju Samson (reserve).
But could there be a left-field option available at India's disposal?
Former head coach Ravi Shastri and current India Test spinner Ravichandran Ashwin have floated the idea of Virat Kohli moving one place down the order to No.4 for the Asia Cup and World Cup as India aim to strengthen the middle-order with the top-order having several other options.
The strong form of Ishan Kishan combined with the fact that Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill are locks at the top of the order have prompted this idea.
Sanjay Manjrekar warned the team to be wary of Kohli's status as a cult player and his incredible numbers at the No.3 position in the pre-squad-announcement show on Star Sports.
Virat Kohli for No.4: Shastri
Ravi Shastri, reflecting on his tenure as head coach, acknowledged contemplating this strategic shift even during the previous World Cups.
He stated, “Even in the previous two World Cups, when I was coach in 2019, I thought I might have discussed that with MSK (Prasad) as well of him (Kohli) batting at four just to break that top-heavy lineup.”
The notion was fueled by the realization that a top-order collapse could leave the team vulnerable, hence emphasizing the need for experience in the middle-order.
Shastri's mention of Kohli's remarkable statistics at No.4 merits scrutiny. In 39 ODIs batting at No.4, Kohli boasts an average of 55.21. Seven of his illustrious 46 ODI centuries have been crafted from this position, showcasing his adaptability and skillset.
However, it is noteworthy that the majority of Kohli's centuries (39) have been accumulated while batting at No.3.
Also read: Asia Cup winners list: 1984 to 2022
Ravichandran Ashwin, aligning with Shastri's proposition, outlined the conditions under which this shift could be implemented. He postulated that Kohli's move to No.4 would be plausible if wicketkeeper-batter KL Rahul, known for his top-order prowess, doesn't regain fitness in time for the World Cup.
In such a scenario, the selection dynamics would change, leaving India with no choice but to slot Ishan Kishan into the XI. Kishan, predominantly a top-order player, possesses relatively less impressive numbers in the middle-order.
Forever grateful 🙏 pic.twitter.com/cpxoUNS0uG— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) August 18, 2023
Ashwin emphasized the significance of observing Shreyas Iyer's performances as a No.4 batter.
Iyer, recognized for his resilience and adaptability, could emerge as the ideal candidate to occupy the pivotal No.4 spot. His proven track record as a middle-order anchor further enhances his candidacy.
The combination of Iyer's proficiency and Kohli's experience could potentially solidify India's middle-order, providing the necessary stability and impetus.
As India navigates the intriguing possibility of reshuffling their batting order, the cricketing fraternity awaits the team's strategic decisions with bated breath.
The idea of Virat Kohli batting at No.4 presents a compelling narrative. The decision could be a huge one for the team, one that could make or break their World Cup campaign. Will they take a plunge?