Hyderabad: As Team India was gradually slipping out of the World Cup after Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul fell in a heap, the social media was flooded with messages of injustice meted out to the Hyderabad flamboyant batsman Ambati Rayudu by the MSK Prasad-led National selectors. India plunged to 3/5 and then 4/24 before Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya led the initial fightback against the sharp New Zealand attack. Later on, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja took the fight into the enemy’s camp before losing the battle in the end.
The social media immediately spoke of the importance of Ambati Rayudu at the crucial No.4 slot. They came out with facts and figures how Rayudu took India to victory after being reduced to 18 for 4 inside ten overs in the fifth one-day international in Wellington during the New Zealand tour. India went on to score 252 and won the match and the series 4-1. Rayudu’s 90 off 113 balls proved to be turning point of the match. The decision to omit Rayudu from the World Cup squad did not go well with former Hyderabad cricketers.
Rayudu may have run into bad form during the home series against Australia, but the selectors should not have taken any drastic measures to omit this experienced Hyderabad batsman from the all-important World Cup. It hurt India very badly as the brittle middle order failed to rise to the occasion. Perhaps, Rayudu’s presence in Manchester could have avoided the disaster. He had the ability to handle the pressure and probably, could have revived India’s fortunes with a more calculative batting. But with no permanent No.4 batsman, India lost their way to eventually fall short by 17 runs.
The selectors had the opportunity to call Rayudu not once, but twice when Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar were injured. But the selectors went for much younger players in Pant and Mayank Agarwal, instead of Rayudu, who felt humiliated and called it quits from all formats of the game.
Former Andhra wicketkeeper Prasan Kumar squarely blamed Prasad for the faulty selection of the team to the World Cup. “How can they drop a player of the calibre of Rayudu, who had the experience to steady the ship in such situations. A disaster was waiting to happen and as the top three of Rohit, Rahul and Rahul failed, the brittle middle order was exposed. It was poor thinking by the selectors as Vijay Shankar and Dinesh Karthik were preferred ahead of Rayudu. It is a shame. There were as many as four wicketkeepers, including KL Rahul, in the team. It was yet another blunder by the selectors. We paid for the poor selection,’’ he said.
RA Swaroop, the former Hyderabad and Baroda opener, too agreed that Rayudu could have made the difference, particularly in a semifinal match. “Rayudu could have anchored the innings, but I thought Pant and Pandya did a reasonable job. They were looking good before they were out to poor shots. They allowed New Zealand to bounce back into the match.’’
The 240 score was a chase-able target, according to former Hyderabad and Mumbai opener Vijay Mohan Raj. “But we messed it up with poor planning. Perhaps, Dhoni should have batted at No.4. He could have stabilised the innings.’’
Even though the Indian bowlers did a fine job, but P Jyothi Prasad, who was a canny swing bowler in the 70s, felt that Mohammad Shami should have played the Wednesday’s semifinals match. “How can a team drop a bowler like Shami, who is the main wicket-taker. The conditions were perfect for the nippy Shami, who could have done lateral damage with his swing and seam like Henry did for New Zealand. Perhaps, India could have restricted New Zealand to a much lower total on this tricky track. India missed the plot.’’