Hyderabad: Hyderabad’s Ambati Rayudu might be having sleepless nights for the last few days as his fate will be decided on Monday when the MSK Prasad-led National selection committee picks the 15-member squad for the one-day World Cup, to be held in England from May 30.
There is a lot of debate about the No.4 spot ever since Rayudu’s form deserted him in the one-day home series against Australia, notwithstanding his good series in New Zealand. The wheel has turned a full cycle. Rayudu caught the attention of the selectors last IPL season when he left an indelible mark with high-scoring performances in Chennai Super King’s third title win. The Hyderabad stroke-player forced his way into the National team although he was unfortunate to miss the England trip as he failed the Yo-Yo test.
But the 33-year-old made a gritty comeback after the England one-day series and was one of the successful batsmen in the UAE Asia Cup and the subsequent series against the visiting West Indies team. It prompted skipper Virat Kohli to say that the team management has more or less sorted out the No. 4 slot.
“Perhaps you’ll agree that the only spot that uncertain in our One-day team was the No. 4 batsman’s spot. That is the only position where we were trying out a few players. Having seen him in the Asia Cup, we feel Rayudu is the right man for the job. So our team is almost sorted.”
Kohli went on to add that the Indian team had wanted Rayudu to play at No. 4 in England as well. “There were some technical issues that stopped it from happening.” But much water has flowed since that West Indies series. His poor form against Australia has slightly dampened his chances and the experts are divided on their opinion whether Rayudu is the right person for the big job in England.
VVS Laxman, who was one of the unfortunate cricketers to miss a World Cup when he missed the bus in the 2003 edition for reasons best known to selectors then, has strongly advocated for Rayudu’s inclusion in the squad for the England tournament. “The fourth position is a national issue. For me number four should be Ambati Rayudu, because he has been doing consistently well. I was a little surprised by the fact that he was dropped after the three one days against Australia. He was the highest run getter in New Zealand and played a very important knock in tough conditions where he scored a 90 when the team was struggling,” said the former Hyderabad elegant batsman.
Rayudu, too, did not help his cause in the on-going IPL tournament with a string of poor scores but in the last match against Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur he hit a splendid half-century in CSK’s close win. His experience came in handy for the Chennai team.
Former World Cupper SL Venkatapathy Raju said Rayudu’s experience will come handy in English conditions. “There is a huge debate on the No.4 position. Given English conditions, Rayadu can be the ideal player at that crucial position as he has the technique and patience to be the calming influence on the team,” he said.
There are at least three big contenders to challenge Rayudu with the likes of KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, Vijay Shankar and Rishabh Pant. All of them come into the picture with some decent scores. However, they have not shown the consistency that would ensure them a place in the team. Therefore, it will be a touch-and-go situation for the selectors before making the final announcement. Perhaps, Kohli’s and coach Ravi Shastri’s inputs will be vital to Rayudu selection.
And if Rayudu, who played in 2015, finds a berth in the team on Monday, he will be the third Hyderabad cricketer after Mohammad Azharuddin and Venkatapathy Raju (1992 and 1996) to play in two World Cups. In fact, Azhar played in four World Cups (1987, 1992, 1996 and 1999). He captained in 1992 and 1999. Abid Ali played in the first edition in 1975.