Has Rayudu solved the No.4 conundrum?
"He has taken the opportunity with both hands and we need to back him till the World Cup. He is feeling good about his game and he is a very confident man. He reads the game really well, so we are happy that someone with intelligence is batting at number four," Kohli was in all appreciation for the 33-year-old Ambati Rayudu in the post-match presentation.
Does this mean that the Indian team have deciphered the bridge between the top order and the lower middle order?
One felt the same way when Ajinkya Rahane played the innings of 79 odd runs in the first ODI against South Africa in Durban. But then the scores followed were 11, 8, 8 and 34* which saw Rahane getting dropped from the limited overs side.
Playing an influential role in CSK's title run, Rayudu amassed 602 runs at a career highest average of 43 and strike rate of 149 kicking down the door of the Indian selection panel. But his failure in passing the mandatory Yo-Yo test meant he was omitted from the flight to the UK.
A couple of fifties in the Asia Cup, and Rayudu was entrusted with the important middle-order slot. He didn't disappoint. With a fifty in the second ODI and a career-defining century in the fourth against the Windies, Rayudu has most certainly solved the number four anagram for Kohli.
KL Rahul was then asked to bat at number three in the first T20I at Old Trafford and answered by scoring a century. He looked set for the middle order stint. But it was cut short with his scores of 6 and 19 in the next T20Is followed by 9*and 0 in the ODIs. He was too added in the list of rejections for the middle-order position from the Indian team and since has been reserved for the opening slot.
But it’s not the first time Rayudu has glistened in the blue jersey. Before his third century, he averaged little less than 50 with nine half-centuries to go with a couple of hundreds. For somebody who made his debut in 2013 and with such astounding numbers, it’s a mooted topic why he couldn’t make big in the Indian team before his latest hundred against the Windies. Maybe because of his few on and off-field controversies, swapping of teams in Ranji cricket or injuries, but he won’t complain for the moment.
Kohli and the team management have shown faith in him, and they need to assure him his place even if he fails for a few innings, which hasn’t been the case lately for a number of players.
He has churned and ground all his careers, but particularly has made huge leaps in 2018. And we wait to see him in Australia and New Zealand before the mega tournament.