World Cup 2019: Has Rayudu done enough to seal the number four spot?
Ambati Rayudu, the half-pint sized fluid stroke maker from Andra Pradesh, was always touted as the upcoming star ever since he came into limelight at a tender age of 16 and later leading the national side at the 2004 U19 World cup. However, he has failed to seize the important moments throughout his cricketing career and has lacked the consistency that is required at this level. He has had his fair share of up and downs in his career. The last year has probably been one of his best as he regained his place in the Indian side.
Just when India felt that the middle order conundrum was finally solved when Rayudu had good home run against the West Indies, the Middle order crisis has come back to haunt Virat Kohli and the team management. In the three ODI’s so far against the Australians in the ongoing home series, Rayudu has been poor, to say the least. This has caused alarming signals among all the cricket fanatics as India has only two games left before their World Cup opener against SouthAfrica at The Rose Bowl on the 5th of June.
Rayudu has scored 33 runs at an abysmal average of 11 and a strike rate of 55 so far in this series. It's not just the numbers that are causing concerns, but the manner in which he has got out that is worrying. He has looked completely out of sort so far, failing to read the line and length. The 33-year-old has a visible weakness against the ball that nips back in. For example, in the 3rd ODI, he misread an incoming delivery from Pat Cummins and was bowled right through his gate. He failed in the remaining first two games and did not look comfortable against Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa at all.
In his defense, one can argue that Rayudu’s career average is close to 50 and has done well whenever given an opportunity. However, digging deeper into his stats will tell a different story.
As seen from the above stats, it is evident that Rayudu has failed to make any impact against top quality sides. He began his career with a bang in Zimbabwe and since then has done well only against relatively weaker sides. The average against the quality sides is a mere 31 in comparison to 68 against minnows Thus career average of 49 is an unfair representation. Coming at number four, Rayudu’s strike rate does not make good reading as he struggles to rotate the strike at times; a skill of utmost importance with the new fielding regulations.
Considering all the above factors, the crucial number four position is still a toss-up between Rayudu, Pant, Dinesh Karthik or even the latest sensation in Vijay Shankar. The upcoming IPL will serve as an acid test to these players and selections could be finalized based on the performances of the players in the T20 league. The cut-off date for selecting the World Cup is tentatively 23rd of April and all the players will have the first month to showcase their talent and give one final try to catch the flight to England in May.
Though one might feel Rayudu has already booked his seat, he still isn’t a certainty in the 11. Fans and team management will hope he finds form in the last two ODI's against Australia.