A lingering quandary that failed to find resolution pre- and post-2019 World Cup, the perplexing issue of India’s No. 4 conundrum appears to persist into the approaching 2023 World Cup. A departure from the past, where last-minute changes in personnel by selectors occurred, this time injuries have played their part, casting a touch of unease over India’s preparations.

This concern hasn’t escaped the attention of India’s captain, Rohit Sharma, who stands just under two months from the commencement of the team’s World Cup journey against Australia in Chennai. Of particular note is the vacuum that has persisted since Yuvraj Singh’s era at No. 4, as Rohit mused, “After Yuvraj Singh, no one has firmly entrenched themselves” in this pivotal position.

Rohit voiced these thoughts at an event in Mumbai, where he was present to announce the upcoming La Liga season. He acknowledged, “No. 4 has been a long-standing issue for us. Shreyas [Iyer] has predominantly occupied that position for quite some time and has performed admirably – his statistical record is indeed impressive.”

He then delved into the complications that have beset India’s middle-order batting: “Several contenders entered the fray but subsequently departed, largely due to injuries, unavailability, or loss of form. Presently, both Shreyas and KL [Rahul] are returning from a four-month hiatus due to significant injuries and surgeries. Having undergone surgery myself, I am acutely aware of the subsequent challenges. We await their response and recovery.”

Shreyas Iyer, having played 20 out of his 38 ODI innings at No. 4, has managed an average of 47.35 with two centuries and five half-centuries. However, injuries have plagued his journey, with his most recent sidelining occurring in March this year due to a back injury that led to surgery, causing him to miss the IPL season.

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Iyer is currently in the final stages of rehabilitation and has resumed batting in the nets.

Rohit recognized the trials Iyer has faced, stating, “Regrettably, injuries have plagued his journey, keeping him sidelined for a considerable duration. This has been a recurring theme over the past several years. This cycle of injuries has seen a revolving door of players at the No. 4 position.”

Since the 2019 World Cup, India has experimented with 11 players at No. 4 in ODIs, and only Iyer and Rishabh Pant have batted in this position over ten times. With Pant currently in recovery mode due to multiple injuries, newcomers like Suryakumar Yadav and Sanju Samson are yet to establish their footing in the ODI arena.

Rohit weighed in on Suryakumar Yadav’s prospects, noting, “Suryakumar is putting in earnest efforts, seeking counsel from seasoned ODI players to cultivate the right mindset. It’s important to grant players like him the latitude to build confidence through consistent opportunities. The way he overcame a slow start in this year’s IPL is testament to his resilience.”

While discussing the Asia Cup on the horizon, where India’s opening match against Pakistan is scheduled for September 2, Rohit emphasized the balance between seeking answers and securing victories. As the squad is yet to be finalized, selectors will also scrutinize the performance of Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna in the Ireland T20Is starting on August 18.

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Currently, a group of around 20 players is poised to gather in Bengaluru for a conditioning camp at the NCA before their departure for the Asia Cup. “We want to win, but at the same time, there are several questions requiring answers,” Rohit affirmed. “In the Asia Cup, I want to observe how some of our players handle pressure against formidable teams.”

Rohit concluded by underlining the importance of a pool of diverse talents: “It’s advantageous to have numerous options rather than relying solely on one or two. We hope their fitness aligns in time – that’s our foremost concern.”