Rishabh Pant was on fire in Delhi’s win over Mumbai to start their IPL campaign.
On 18 March 2018 Vijay Shankar was the laughing stock of the internet. In his debut innings in the Nidahas Trophy final – a T20 tri-series between India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – he had been sent ahead of Dinesh Karthik in their run chase of 167.
Shankar had struggled to connect all of Mustafizur Rahman’s off cutters. From 35 off 18, India needed 34 off 12. Luckily Dinesh Karthik’s 29 from eight balls saved India from an upset with the penultimate ball (I still have sleepless nights from that game as a Bangladesh fan). But Shankar was still mercilessly trolled.
But that game had probably done Shankar more good than bad.
He knuckled down and stopped reading negative comments about him on social media. He had a very solid IPL season – an average of 52 and strike rate of 143 for the Delhi Daredevils, now Delhi Capitals. Then came a few tours with India A in England and New Zealand in which he did well, especially in New Zealand.
Throw in Hardik Pandya’s suspension and suddenly India had no seam bowling all-rounder in their squad. Shankar was drafted into India’s ODI squad against Australia and New Zealand and the T20 series against New Zealand. He made his ODI debut at the iconic MCG and bowled a tidy six overs, conceding only 22 runs.
Shankar was given more chances with the ball in New Zealand but was a batting all-rounder playing the role of Hardik Pandya, who’s a bowling all-rounder. It was never going to work.
His chance with the bat finally came in the fifth ODI against New Zealand in Wellington. India were tethering at 4-18 against the new ball attack of Trent Boult and Matthew Henry. Shankar calmly weathered the storm and scored a patient 45 off 64 before Ambati Rayudu ran him out and robbed him of a maiden 50.
The team management gave him more chances with the bat in the T20 series against New Zealand. In the absence of Virat Kohli, Shankar was promoted to No.3, scoring 82 runs at a strike rate of 155. He also got promoted to No.5 in the second ODI against Australia in Nagpur, where he had scored an impressive 46 off 41 before a very cruel deflection off Adam Zampa robbed him again of a maiden international 50.
An average of 47.7 in first-class cricket and 37 in List A cricket (he averages 41 in ODI cricket, 123 runs at a strike rate of 91) shows his capabilities with the bat. While he’s only taken two wickets in ODI cricket, he’s done a decent job with the ball.
He should be on the plane to England as a batsman who should be batting at No.4 over Ambati Rayudu. His technique is very solid for English conditions. He can play like a proper batsman and accelerate when needed, something Hardik Pandya can’t do. India would do very well in the World Cup if they were to play Shankar and Pandya alongside their two wrist spinners.