Ambati Rayudu misses the World Cup bus, pays price for inconsistenciesIndia’s World Cup squad has been announced and there is a major surprise with the omission of Ambati Rayudu for Vijay Shankar. On the other hand, the inclusion of Dinesh Karthik was on expected lines ahead of Rishabh Pant as the former has had rich limited-overs experience and better glove work apart from the finishing skills.
But the omission of Rayudu has upstaged all plans of the team to get a permanent solution to No 4 woes. It may be recalled selectors, Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shashtri gave a long rope to Rayudu to come good at No 4 and grab the spot.
Ambati Rayudu had a good start on his international comeback
Rayudu did not fare badly. He scored a ton (100) in the ODI series against West Indies and Kohli, Ravi heaved a sigh of relief that their prayers have been finally answered. In 11 ODIs in 2018, Rayudu scored 392 runs @ 56 with one ton and 3 fifties.
India were confident that they have found their man at No 4 to resolve the middle-order woes.
But 2019 turned out to be a difficult year for Rayudu who managed just one fifty in 10 games, aggregating 247 runs @ 30.87. But his highest score of 90 came in trying circumstances in Wellington ODI against New Zealand as India took home the series 4-1.
But three straight flops in the ODI series against Australia seemed to have sealed his fate and inconsistencies came back to hurt Rayudu once again and missed the World Cup bus. Nothing but Rayudu is to blame for failing to make the cut.
The rise of Vijay Shankar
Rayudu could have still made it for lack of better No 4 options if not for the rise of Vijay Shankar as a competent middle-order batsman and part-time medium pacer who can come in handy in English conditions.
Shankar has just nine ODIs to his credit with 5 innings so far. Out of those five innings, he has played two crucial knocks under pressure in winning causes and that probably tilted the balance in his favour. Shankar made 45 in the Wellington ODI and rescued India in the company of Rayudu. In the Nagpur ODI against Australia, he made another brilliant 46 and even outscored captain Virat Kohli and impressed one and all.
Happy with his batting performance, selectors have rewarded Shankar with a World Cup berth. And he’s most likely to play at No 4 ahead of KL Rahul who has been chosen as a specialist reserve opener.
Besides, Shankar’s bowling and his last-over heroics against Australia in Nagpur where he grabbed two wickets to help India across the line made him a multiple utility player ahead of an experienced but single-dimensional player in Rayudu who struggles in conditions favouring bowlers. The inclusion of Shankar also gives more bowling options to captain Kohli.
Shankar at No 4: A juvenile approach or a masterstroke?
If Shankar does get to play at No 4 followed by MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya in the XI, India will be going with only three specialist batsmen at the top. And that could come to haunt India like how it happened in the 3-2 ODI series loss against Australia at home recently.
But if the move does click, it will be a masterstroke for India and Rayudu-omission saga will be put in the background.
But at the moment, Rayudu would rue what could have been had he only showed more application and consistency in the limited opportunities, but a longer rope, he received from selectors, captain, and team management.
India’s World Cup squad: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (captain), Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni (keeper), Dinesh Karthik (keeper), Hardik Pandya, YS Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, KL Rahul, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja.