The Indian team management may be grappling with questions over their ideal No. 4 in ODIs, but Sourav Ganguly has picked “KL Rahul, eyes closed.” The former India captain felt playing Rahul in that position that would ease the pressure on MS Dhoni, who he pointed out was “struggling” and needed to start “hitting” at No. 6.
Virat Kohli the India captain, admitted that an unsettled middle order was one of the concerns for the side as they prepare for next year’s World Cup. Ganguly believed the team management “isn’t looking after their best batsmen properly” and isn’t sending out the right message with the constant chopping and changing.
“Your top four have to be the best players; you have to persist with them. Go and speak to KL Rahul and say I’ll give you 15 games, just go and play,” Ganguly told Sony Pictures Network. “India need a No. 4. MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik are very good at five, six and seven. But a top class player has to be at four.”
Ganguly was making a case for that batsman being Ajinkya Rahane or Rahul, who was left out of the series-deciding final ODI in Headingley. Rahul, who started the tour with a scintillating century in the Manchester T20I, managed only 9 not out and 0 in the first two ODIs.
“Two of your best batsmen aren’t being looked after properly,” Ganguly said. “I’m not saying it’s deliberate, maybe it’s a mistake, maybe you look at it differently from the other side. From this side, I feel those two have to play at four, else it’s too much of pressure on Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli. In South Africa, you won, Kohli got three hundreds in six games. If Kohli doesn’t get a hundred, you will find it difficult to win matches.”
When Ganguly was asked why India didn’t have a settled look a year on from the World Cup, he said: “Because they don’t give enough opportunities. KL Rahul got a magnificent hundred in Manchester. In the other two T20Is, he was out to one brilliant catch in Bristol. He was not out in Nottingham, missed out at Lord’s and then he’s dropped. You won’t be able to produce players like that.”
According to Ganguly, the No. 4 debate isn’t the only worry for India. He also felt a “struggling MS Dhoni” needed to be told to play more aggressively, while they need to move on from Suresh Raina, who had returned to ODI cricket after nearly three years. Raina top-scored with 46 in India’s loss in the Lord’s ODI, but had little else to show for in the remaining two matches, looking completely out of depth, both against spin and the short ball.
“I think there are better players around, with all due respect he’s [Raina] played for long periods of time, got runs in ODIs, but not much overseas. But you need to move on,” Ganguly said. “If Dhoni’s got to play, he has to get into positions where he has to keep hitting. If he has 24-25 overs to play, you’ve got to build an innings and he’s struggling at the moment.
“He may turn it around, you don’t know what’s in store for great players – he’s been a great player for India in the shorter formats – but at the present moment he’s not been turning it around and it’s been that way for a year, year-and-a-half or probably more. So they need a good player at four and five, and then if they think MS Dhoni is the way forward, him at six and Pandya at seven.”