Former India head coach Ravi Shastri had contemplated the idea back in 2019 as he admitted to having long discussions with then-chief selector MSK Prasad leading to the World Cup in England. And while he did not eventually go through it, he reiterated the same last week as India gear up for the Asia Cup, followed by the 2023 ODI World Cup. With India still struggling through the No. 4 issue – even captain Rohit Sharma admitted that the team has failed to find a better option since Yuvraj Singh – Shastri feels Virat Kohli should fulfil the role. But the idea was immediately shut by two cricket experts as they served Shastri with a brutal Sachin Tendulkar reminder from the 2007 World Cup.
The 2007 edition of the 50-over event remains India’s worst-ever show in the tournament’s history. Despite the side featuring some of the blockbuster names in Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid (captain), Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, and Harbhajan Singh, India suffered a group-stage exit after falling to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
And among the major reasons listed for the forgettable show, Tendulkar’s name topped the list for a bizarre decision the team management had taken during the World Cup. Breaking the formidable opening pair of Tendulkar and Ganguly, who were in form with umpteen records to their name, the former was sent at No.4, where he managed to score 7 and a duck in two innings, both of which India lost.
‘Virat has become the scapegoat’
On Monday, when Star Sports replayed Shastri’s theory of pushing Kohli down to No.4, former India cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar said that the “iconic” player seems to have become the “scapegoat” amid experts trying to explore fitting other options like Ishan Kishan in the lineup.
“The more and more you talk about other options like Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli seems to get relegated. He has sort of become the scapegoat in the sense that you bat him at No.4 and all your problems are solved,” he said.
Although former Australia cricketer Tom Moody, who was part of the same panel, agreed with Shastri’s idea, Manjrekar was quick to remind him of the Sachin incident from 16 years ago. He however left the decision to Kohli if the team management asks him to bat at No.4 in what could most likely be his final World Cup appearance.
“There is also a cultural issue in Indian cricket. In 2007 World Cup when the team management of Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell sent Tendulkar at No.4 instead of opening because they had people like Virender Sehwag and others at the top of the order. But that became a huge controversy. So it is really up to Kohli, an iconic player, on whether he wants to bat at No.4. It seems like a perfectly simple solution, but it concerns Kohli,” he added.
Another former India cricketer, Dodda Ganesh, taking to X, spoke on similar lines as he brushed aside the idea of the “best batter” in the team to change his batting position in an event as big as the World Cup.
“Your best batter should bat at his customary position where he’s had all the success. Not a fan of Kohli batting at no 4 just because the team couldn’t find a batter for these many years. Remember, what happened in 2007 WC where Sachin was asked to bat at 4,” he posted.
India are yet to reveal their World Cup plans, but the Asia Cup, starting August 30, will surely give a peak into the management’s thought process and probably could reveal if they do want Kohli at No. 4 instead of options in Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma or Shreyas Iyer.