Vijay Shankar was pitchforked into the national side when Hardik Pandya was summoned home from Australia in January this year. And he quickly showed with his strokeplay that he deserved an extended run at the highest level. He also benefitted from Ambati Rayudu's decline in form as the selectors backed Shankar's ability to play smart cricket as seen in his first innings in Wellington and later against Australia in Nagpur and Ranchi.
In Nagpur, he was called upon to the deliver the final over, having but 10 runs to defend against a determined Marcus Stoinis who was leading Australia towards the finish line. Bowling with the calm of a seasoned professional, the 28-year-old claimed the wickets of Stoinis and last man Adam Zampa to emerge as an all-round hero in the match.
He may be called upon to bowl a few overs in some games where the track helps seamers but his batting at No. 6 — where he will most likely be asked to bat much of the time — will be very crucial to the side, no matter what situation he walks in. He will have to be prepared to bat through the innings, responsibly, and must shed his penchant to fritter away his wicket. More so, since he may find himself batting with the lower half of the batting order.
Batting at No 6 calls for a great deal of understanding and maturity, not to speak of an awareness of the ebb and flow of the game. Despite having precious little exposure at the international level, he will be called upon to discover copious portions of understanding, maturity and game awareness during the World Cup. His performance can be quite pivotal to the team's success, even if Hardik Pandya is the more experience all-rounder.