No.4 is a pivotal role in ODI lineup,sort of a mid runner in a relay race who takes the baton from the top 3 and passes the baton to so called finishers(i hate this term) to finish the game.In some ways no.4 has to be a player with a finisher mentality himself but he has to be well versed in playing dual role of consolidating and finishing.
Yuvi played the role of no.4 really well for half decade circa 2005-2011 but post that no number 4 has been able to establish himself.Though Pandya batted at no.4 in last 2 ODIs but in the current set up there are lots of players who are vying for that no.4 slot:
Hardik Pandya : He has done a great job in last 2 odis. In the modern ODI setup he seems an ideal no.4 to me as he has shown the ability to take singles according to situation and sixes against spinners are never far away.That he isnt a slogger has been on display in the last 6 months or so and to me he has certainly fortified his credentials to be a regular no.4.But I believe if he is to be the regular no.4,there has to be inclusion of one more more power player in the lineup.
Manish Pandey : His demotion in the last 2 odis must have given him signals that the team management has not been impressed with him.But Pandey to me is someone who needs to time to build up his innings and I dont think he is someone who can be very successful in lower order.He plays all his cricket for KKR at top order and thats where he has been successful as well.So, he is another one who at the moment is playing at a position where he is being disadvantaged and he has himself to blame for that as he failed continuously against NZ last year and then in the 1st ODIs this series.But personally I believe he is someone who needs to be backed,that innings at Sydney always come to mind where he played an ideal innings for a big chase.
Jadhav : Very good player,always likes to aggressive ,sometimes unnecessarily aggressive.What I observed even yesterday about him,he has these pet shots which he plays whether its cut or sweep.I was very disappointed the way he played against Zampa , he got into bad positions and was premeditating too much.Not one of the top contenders for me for sure.
Dhoni: The favorite of many on this forum.He is someone who in many fans thinking is the ideal no.4 at the present with the way he bats these days.The way he takes his own sweet time before getting into groove.Somehow I believe he is good at the position he has scored runs at no.5 recently ,though I was hoping he is sent earlier than when he came in because I wanted to see how he reacts to the situation,his modus operandi etc.There were many who believed he would have taken RRR quite up and made the situation even more difficult.Sadly,even though am his fan I agree with the said notion,because we can only presume what he would have done and too much tuk tuking is exactly what he has done in recent past when there has been a huge target to chase.But even if he is given a chance at no.4 ,its not a bad option to try but he needs to be tested in situation like there was one yesterday.
KL Rahul: Only few bright minds in the team management think Rahul can be a no.4/middle order option,.I ll only hope,this guy's career is not ruined in the process.
Then ,we can throw in a curve ball in Krunal Pandya: I truly believe this guy is a very good batsman,who can play according to situation,street smart and also has the ability to play big shots when needed.Last year I believe he was playing at no.3 for Baroda,which clearly shows he is primarily batsman,who has the ability to build up an innings.
The batting order should be set, keeping in mind that when the situation of 60 runs of 36 balls comes,there should be a player left who is adept at taking side home from that situation.Exhausting all players capable of playing at good pace is also not a bright idea.
Development of Pandya as a cricketer has been a delight to watch.In many ways this guy has completed our side in almost all formats.Hitting ability aside ,the matirity and calmness he has shown in last 6 months exemplifies his development.
Much of Pandya's growth as a cricketer must be attributed to Dhoni at start and largely to Kohli for always backing him in every situation.There were times I thought him playing as a 3rd seamer is a slightly risky option but he has seldom disappointed with the ball in the hand.Going into the champions trophy final I thought he might be the weak link in the bowling but he turned out to be one of the best bowler on the finals day.Subsequently he has taken crucial wickets and now hardly can be treated as a weak link as I presumed he was in this side.Inclusion of variations like knuckle ball is a pleasant sight as well.
Batting has been a revelation.I remember I was not convinced that much after his 50 odd vs Eng at Eden Gardens in January this year , the innings was riddled with edgy shots.But 6-8 months after that,Pandya looks much more calmer, equally destructive against spinners or seamers but he does all that with a plan in mind.Never have I seen a batsman who finds hitting sixes against spinners as easy as this guy and even yesterday when Agar was bowling I knew chakka tou padega hi isko kabhi na kabhi and Pandya didnt disappoint.Now the growth part ,when he miscued one on a flighted loopy delivery, he knew he had committed a mistake and it was great to watch he didnt repeat it and on the contrary changed his modus operandi and hit Agar for a six using his feet.Maturity,calmness and game awareness everything was on display.
Now coming on to the nub of the point I am trying to make,looking at Pandya grow as a cricketer in this regime, a thought came in my mind that Rishabh Pant who I believe is an equally big talent,should be given a chance to become a polished cricketer like Pandya is on course to becoming.As I wrote earlier,Pandya has completed our side in many ways already but if Pant is a given a chance to become a player he has the potential to become ,our limited overs team can be the most dangerous side in the current circuit.We have one maverick in Pandya and there is still scope for one more in our side and Pant is ideal for that.
Now comes some people's apprehension that Pant can only play if Dhoni hangs up his keeping gloves.I dont believe that, Dhoni and Pant both can play,like Healy n Gilly circa 1997.The world cup is still 2 years away and I am desperately hoping Pant is in Kohl's scheme of thing for that tournament because such a talent has to be tapped.