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India v Australia

Kohli in contentious move to No.4 to accommodate Dhawan, Rahul

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

India’s top-order conundrum, born out of the imperious form of KL Rahul and the past success of Shikhar Dhawan, resulted in their captain Virat Kohli moving out of his much-favoured No.3 position.

Kohli dropped himself a spot to two-down on January 14, for the first ODI of the three-match series against the visiting Australians at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium. The move was to accommodate both Dhawan and Rahul, with both openers presenting strong cases to be first-choice selections in India’s limited-overs XI.

Dhawan retained his position at the top of the order to resume his highly successful combination with Rohit Sharma, which has been India’s second-most prolific partnership in ODIs, after Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. Rahul slotted in at No.3, the spot usually favoured by Kohli.

The move was met with much scepticism among the on-air commentators, who questioned if it was what’s best for the team, given Kohli’s enormous success at No.3. “I think the best player in the world should bat in the position that made him [the best player] in the world,” Harsha Bhogle remarked, an opinion that was seconded by other experts, such as Sanjay Manjrekar and Matthew Hayden.

Kohli became a household name at No.3. He has played 180 of his 233 innings from that position and scored 9,509 of his 11,609 career runs from there. He has collected 36 of his 43 hundreds, and 45 of his 55 fifties from that position as well, while his average of 63.39 at that spot is markedly higher than his career average of 59.84.

Kohli is the third most prolific batsman in the history of one-day cricket in that position, after Australia’s Ricky Ponting and Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara. But his average is unmatched among anyone with more 1,000 or more runs from that position. He is also the most prolific century-maker in that list.

Kohli’s record at No.4 isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. In the 38 innings he has played from there so far, he has racked up 1,751 runs at 56.48, with seven hundreds and eight fifties, and a best of 139*.

Before Tuesday, Kohli had batted at No.4 only once since October 2015. That innings had come in March last year, when Australia last visited Indian shores for a one-day series. Kohli fell for 7, but India zoomed away to 358-9, although Australia stunningly chased it down with 13 balls to spare, to level the series after having conceded a 2-0 lead.

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