The World Cup has come and gone, the Caribbean tour has ended too but India's No. 4 debate in ODIs isn't close to over yet. The responsibility of grooming the ideal batsman for the position will now land on Vikram Rathour's shoulders when he takes over as India's new batting coach later this month.
"It is not just about the World Cup. It is one slot [we must look at]," Rathour told bcci.tv. "The middle order in one-days is not doing well and we must, of course, sort it out. Shreyas Iyer has done well in the last couple of games and we also have Manish Pandey. These two guys have done very well in domestic cricket and with India A. These are the batters who are capable of doing the job and I have no doubt about it in my mind. It is a matter of getting it right at the top level. We need to back them and provide them with the right preparations so that they can be there for a longer time. They have enough talent in them to do well."
Pandey was in the squad, but didn't get a game in India's recently concluded ODI series in the West Indies. After the first match was washed out, Rishabh Pant got the opportunity at No. 4, where he scored 20 and 0. It was Iyer, batting at No. 5 in both completed matches, who was the only India batsman apart from Virat Kohli to cross 50 twice and ended the series with an average of 68 and strike rate of 124.77, the best in the series for anyone who scored more than 40 runs.
His second half-century came off just 33 balls during a 41-ball 65 after India were 92 for 3 while chasing a stiff 255 in 35 overs, and after the win Kohli said Iyer "understood the value of performing in these situations".
Pandey and Iyer were then given captaincy responsibilities for the India A one-day side against South Africa A. Pandey batted at No. 4 and 5 in the first three games, and scored 39, 13 off 14 (21-over match) and 81 off 59 (30 overs) before Iyer took his place in the side for the last two games and made 26 off 23 (25 overs) and 36 off 19 (20 overs).
Another concern for the Indian think tank is the opening combination in Tests. Even though KL Rahul's series tally read 101 compared to Mayank Agarwal's 80, it is Rahul's spot under following a prolonged period where he has not been able to capitalise on his starts, attracting criticism from Sourav Ganguly, Sunil Gavaskar and VVS Laxman recently.
"We have options and there is healthy competition. We need to find a way for them to be more consistent," Rathour said.
Another option for India is Prithvi Shaw, who is suspended until November 15 for a drug violation. Hanuma Vihari had also impressed as a makeshift opener while opening in Australia last year, but his recent scores in the West Indies have given India a solid batsman at No. 6.
Whether India stick with these names or try out other batsmen from the domestic circuit will be decided by the selectors, a role Rathour has played in the past. Rathour had retired as a player in 2003 and moved to England for six years before returning to coach Punjab and then become a selector in September 2012. He said it was during his captaincy days for Punjab that he realised he had it in him to become a coach. He then completed his coaching qualifications of Levels A and B from the BCCI and C from Cricket Australia before being roped in by Kings XI Punjab in the IPL, and is now replacing Sanjay Bangar as the batting coach for India.
"At this level, man-management is the key. How you support them, how you look after them in tough times has been my strength," Rathour said. "The three courses have given me an edge in understanding the technique and technical aspect. I have been the Head Coach with Punjab and Himachal and also the Director of Cricket at Himachal and know what the players expect.
"I want to create an environment where players aren't scared of making mistakes, where mistakes are not looked down upon because they are learning opportunities. You can fail once in a while, but you must learn from your failures and get better."