There was a time when Indian batting-line ups were feared for their depth. The Indian top-order has always been solid and has seen a lot of big names in there. The middle-order was also renowned once with Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, and MS Dhoni all chipping in whenever needed.
The last few years have seen India’s middle-order becoming a laboratory. Numerous players have been tried, tested, discarded, shuffled, dropped and then brought back again for another round of trials but the tactically most important slots were never filled and belonged to a few sets of palayer.
This New Zealand series has just seen what the team management and fans had been waiting for.
The stage was set when Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma had to miss out because of injuries. In the absence of the top-order stalwarts, the Indian middle-order needed to bring its A game to the party.
All the three matches saw the top-order failing. The new opening pair of Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw failed to give India the kind of starts they are used to. To make matters worse, Virat Kohli managed only 75 runs from 3 matches: his worst performance in a bilateral ODI series as captain.
KL Rahul, who has been in red-hot form, rose to the occasion. He finished with the second-highest run in the series, scoring 202 runs at a staggering average of 102. His 202 runs in the series included a century and a half-century.
Another rising star Shreyas Iyer, who had even hoped of being picked in the India squad for 2019 World Cup, scored 217 runs in the series, finishing at the top of run chart. He averaged 72.33 and scored a ton and 2 half-ton.
The stats for India’s number 4 batting position are telling.
Since April 2016 India have tried 13 players, who have played 91 innings at the number 4 position. These 13 players together average 35.14 at the position and have 3 centuries and 13 half-centuries to their name.
Shreyas Iyer on the other hand, in his 8 innings at the number 4 position averages an impressive 56.85 and have scored 1 century and 4 half-centuries. Iyer was successful to do what 13 players together couldn’t do.
Also, it was for the first time since 2007 that an Indian batting pair managed two century stands, batting at No.4 and No.5 position for India in an ODI series.
Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni achieved the feat against Pakistan in 2007 and Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul did it on Tuesday after a gap of 12 years for India.
In this series, KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer accumulated 421 runs together while the rest of Indian team together managed to score 423 runs.
It may also be time to take a decision on the future of the 34-year-old Kedar Jadhav. Jadhav has been in and out of the team because of injuries but every time he has been included in the squad he has got an opportunity in the playing eleven.
An inform and talented Manish Pandey, who has at least 5 years of cricket left in him, warms the bench on most of the occasions.
Jadhav scored 35 runs in the first two matches, while Pandey scored a vital 42 in the one opportunity he got in the final ODI and also stitched a 107-run partnership with KL Rahul.
It is now clear that if KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey are given a proper run at their respective position, it will be the Indian team that stands to benefit.