Is Vijay Shankar’s form a worrying sign for India?

Vijay Shankar

When Vijay Shankar bowled India to an eight-run victory over Australia in the second of the five-match ODI series, the world took notice of a man who seemed fearless and ready for every challenge thrown at him. 

Handed his first ODI cap at the iconic MCG against Australia, Shankar was tasked with filling the void left by a then-suspended Hardik Pandya. Four months on, he is now the man widely tipped to operate in the crucial number four spot in the Indian batting line-up. 

Termed a surprise selection by many, Shankar was chosen ahead of the more experienced Ambati Rayudu and a slew of other batsmen, who at one point or another had been asked to bat two down. 

With the group stage of the arduous Indian Premier League now over, the 28-year-old’s form has been a major let-down for both Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Indian faithful. 

What has gone wrong this season? 

The stylish all-rounder began his IPL season with a couple of fine knocks against KKR and RR. He hit 40 off 24 in the first encounter and 35 of just 15 in the second. Since then, he’s registered a substandard 144 runs in 12 innings. 

Shankar came in at four or three and took little time to settle. Moreover, the right-handed batsman appeared to be striking the ball as clean as a whistle early on. Since then, however, he’s failed to record a single 30+ score. Shankar has also been unable to take his side home while chasing and has struggled to increase the scoring rate.

It is probably safe to say that he bears the blame for the Sunrisers’ batting woes in the middle and death overs. It’s a shame that his form has endured a drastic dip post selection in the World Cup squad. Not to mention, quite often, the likes of David Warner and Jonny Bairstow laid the rest of the innings on a platter for the batsmen to follow. 

With the touch and the confidence he brought into the IPL, the seaming all-rounder was expected to deliver better returns. As a result, he hasn’t helped himself or Hyderabad. 

Another disappointment has been his bowling. He’s bowled just eight overs all season, allowing 70 odd runs in the process. Shankar has got just a solitary wicket. 

As the tournament has progressed, the Tamil Nadu man has faded into the background. Barring the first couple of matches, his strike rate is an abysmal 100.6. Time and again, the side needed him to take the helm and take the game deep but Shankar has fallen cheaply. 

Does this mean trouble for India? 

The selectors had stated previously that IPL form was not a factor in WC selection. However, this latest trough should raise some alarms, given how dependent India is on their top three. 

Mental preparation for a tournament like the World Cup is as essential as putting the hard yards at the gym or in the nets. For a player with just nine ODI caps, his form is of paramount importance heading into the premier cricketing event. 

At the moment, it seems like it's going to be a tough road for Shankar. He has got starts for India and produced vital cameos but he has never played more than 64 balls. This implies that his ability to play long knocks is far from tested. To put the responsibility on the shoulders of a youngster to steady the innings after the fall of early wickets doesn’t sound too logical. 

His World Cup selection, at this point, seems a tad delusional considering the fact that he has zero experience on English soil. Couple that with his shot selections at this year’s IPL and it's clear that India’s hopes at the upcoming World Cup have suffered a major setback. 

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