India’s chairman of selectors MSK Prasad is adamant his committee would not look at IPL form when they select the team for the World Cup on April 15.
However, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar reckons the selectors will ultimately be forced to look at IPL performances and decide on which players to pick based on current form.
India played their last international match before the World Cup on March 13. The likes of Ambati Rayudu, KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant did not score many runs against Australia and Gavaskar believes it could well come down to their IPL form when the selectors meet in Mumbai on Monday (April 15).
KL Rahul, who is being looked as an option for the No.4 spot, has hit 3 fifties and a hundred for Kings XI Punjab and Gavaskar feels he could well be in contention for a World Cup berth.
“Look, who bats at no.4 will be a matter of debate. And this is where IPL form will be considered because that’s current form. Ambati Rayudu was spoken about when the season started but has lost form sharply and someone like KL Rahul could be chosen for no.4,” he tells India Today.
Sunil Gavaskar does not want to read too much into the selectors’ insistence that they will not look at IPL form.
Gavaskar is impressed with the way KL Rahul has built his innings in the 2019 IPL. He has scored 317 runs from 7 matches and Gavaskar is now convinced he could be the man India need at the crucial No.4 spot in the World Cup.
“He has played at no.4 in the past. But for some reason he was confused in the past year and a half or so. But we have seen him bat with a lot of focus and concentration in the IPL.
“And I don’t think it’s so much a problem for an opener to switch to middle order as opposed to a middle order player to bat in the opening position,” he reasons.
Rahul’s ODI career with 343 runs from 14 matches averaging 34 has been patchy to say the least. In half of those games, Rahul has opened and batted at Nos 3,4 and 5 on other occasions.
If Rahul can master the art of batting in the middle overs, it also provides him with a chance to break into the playing XI from the beginning of the World Cup rather than remaining a back up for the Dhawan-Rohit pair.
Gavaskar rates the Karnataka batting star very highly: “He was supposed to be consistent like a Virat Kohli and a Cheteshwar Pujara because he has that sort of ability with both attack and defence.
Look we know about his talent but for the last four years when there have been lot of expectations from him, he hasn’t always scored. But the way he has batted in the IPL, I think he can bat at No.4.”
But if the selectors walk the talk, they would not look at KL Rahul beyond the reserve openers’ slot and judge Rayudu without factoring in his IPL numbers. They could then also consider Vijay Shankar as a possible no.4 batting option.
“Vijay Shankar does provide you with an additional bowling option along with his batting. Not 10 overs but perhaps 3 or 4. But even with his batting, I haven’t liked the fact that he has gotten out without finishing games. The strokes he has gotten out to do raise a question mark over his temperament,” Gavaskar says.
Clearly if Gavaskar had his way, his vote for the crucial no.4 batting slot behind Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli would go to KL Rahul.