Rohit Sharma Shikhar Dhawan KL Rahul Virat Kohli India top four VVS Laxman
From left: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli © Getty Images (file photos)

VVS Laxman believes that Virat Kohli should drop down a spot in the batting order during the ODI series against England at Trent Bridge today to accommodate KL Rahul at No. 3. Amid much speculation as to where the Indian cricket team management will bat the in-form Rahul, Laxman has backed Rahul to take the one-drop position given his form and the problem India have had with determining a long-term No. 4.

Rahul’s return to India’s ODI squad came after a strong IPL seasons for Kings XI Punjab, in which he scored 659 runs in 14 matches at a strike-rate of 158.4. During the recent T20Is against Ireland and England, he scored 70, 101*, 6 and 19 to move to third place in the ICC rankings for T20I batsmen.

“Virat has won so many games for Team India, but you can’t ignore the form KL Rahul is in. He’s in prime form, and I think he’s an impact player … a match-winner,” Laxman told ESPNCricinfo.

Batting at one-down in ODIs, Kohli has scored 7,495 runs at an average of 61.43, with 28 of his 35 centuries coming at that position. Batting at No. 3 as ODI captain, Kohli averages a phenomenal 90.46, courtesy 12 centuries and 9 half-centuries.

According to Laxman, however, having Kohli bat one place lower also gives India a great chance at solving their No. 4 conundrum. Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya have all been batted at No. 4 over the past two years but none has been locked in.

Keeping an eye on the road to the World Cup, Laxman hoped that the Indian management would persist with a top four comprising Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Rahul and Kohli: “In the last one and a half years India have tried a lot of players. They didn’t stick to one particular player and give him enough opportunities on which to judge … players like Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, but I believe with these top four batsmen there is quality, class and experience. This is the top four I would like for the next year and the World Cup.”

Asked to choose between Suresh Raina and Karthik in the middle order for the current ODI series against England, Laxman chose the former: “I would love to have DK in the ODIs, but such was the form Raina showed in the T20Is against Ireland and England, and he also can slip in some overs, which is important. It is important that Raina slips in three or four or five overs, which gives that additional option for the captain.”