After his swashbuckling century against Ireland in the second T20I, Deepak Hooda became just the fourth batter from Indian Men’s team to score a T20I century. With that, and also his performances in the last two seasons, he has raised a claim to be on the plane to Australia for the T20 World Cup. This has increased the already-existing headache for Team India, as they are facing a problem of plenty for the #4 position. In this piece, we look at the potential contenders for the crucial batting spot in India’s middle order.
Suryakumar Yadav – Consistent and versatile
Perhaps, the first-choice batter in the playing XI. When a few knocks on the door weren’t enough, Suryakumar ‘SKY’ Yadav broke down the door and left the Indian selectors and management with no choice but to select him. Since his debut, SKY has consistently provided valuable performances at any position he has been asked to bat.
SKY isn’t a powerful hitter, but he has this wonderful ability to manoeuvre the ball behind the square. His strong wrists allow him to use the angles on the field. What makes him stand out is his equally strong game against pace and spin. He has the experience of playing at all positions from 3 to 7, and that versatility could make him the go-to man for India.
Iyer’s struggle against pace could hurt his place
Shreyas Iyer stormed into the Indian team on the back of strong performances in domestic cricket. His IPL numbers might be modest, but in his 41 matches for India, Iyer has time and again showcased why he is considered one of the better all-format batters in the country. However, his glaring weakness against short-pitched balls could potentially go against him.
Iyer has decent figures against pace and spin for India, but his perceived weakness against good pace bowling was showcased in front of South Africa in the recent T20I series. Australian pitches might be flat for the T20 World Cup, but they’ll still be expected to provide pace and bounce. While the T20 format may allow a batter to escape a constant attack on their technique, Iyer’s might be too difficult to wash away.
Rishabh Pant – Needs to carry his IPL form into T20Is
The only left-handed option for India in their top seven batters. That fact alone could help Pant’s case in making it into the playing XI. His ability has never been questioned, as he has a stellar record in the IPL and other international formats, but his struggles in the shortest format for India are perplexing.
A destructive batter in Tests, Pant has often been guilty of trying too many things too soon in T20Is. His issue isn’t his technique, and there are no real weaknesses in his T20 game, but a lack of game awareness is what has been bringing his downfall. With Sanju Samson also scoring runs in the opportunity that he got, Pant’s place might no longer be as guaranteed as it seemed a month ago.
Deepak Hooda – An emerging contender
The latest entrant into the reckoning. Deepak Hooda provides a unique aspect unlike any of the other options or even first-choice top-order batters – a part-time bowling option. A genuine all-rounder, Hooda’s off-spin might not be too effective in Australian conditions, but he can still fill in for an over or two. Hooda did not break into the team just on the back of a good 2022 IPL. In the 2021 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (India’s domestic T20 tournament), Hooda was the second-highest run-scorer. No batter from the top 15 run-scorers managed to score in excess of 150; Hooda’s strike rate was 168.
Hooda also provides a fast-scoring option, an area where India have struggled off late. Although a small sample size of three innings, Hooda has scored 172 runs for India at 168.63 in T20Is. His game seems to have covered all bases, as he is equally destructive against different bowling types and lengths. His century might have come against Ireland, but that performance would have propelled him into being one of the favourites for the T20 World Cup squad.
The problem of plenty is always better than searching for options. India are lucky to have a pool of players ready for the big stage whenever necessary. However, they’ll need to finalise their first-choice 11-12 soon else they might end up in Australia not knowing their best T20I combination.