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Rayudu, the curious case of India's almost-there man

Ambati Rayudu at crossroads after missing the ICC World Cup 2019 berth in India team

Bengaluru, April 17: Ambati Rayudu chose humour to vent his inner turmoil when he tweeted about ordering 3D glasses to watch the ICC World Cup 2019. By now, everyone might be familiar of the backdrop - the three dimension logic chief selector MSK Prasad offered to vindicate the selection of Vijay Shankar into India's England-bound squad at the expense of Rayudu.

Some may rile with Rayudu and call him not being gracious at a crisis hour, some may sympathise with him but the question is how his world came crashing around him from the high of November 2018 when Virat Kohli anointed him as India's No 4 till the World Cup. The quest, it seemed, was over. In fact, Rayudu played 15 of the 18 ODIs in the interim averaging over 42.

Rayudu has always been a nearly man of Indian cricket. Despite loads of talent, he never really seemed to have translate that potential into performance. Often he also gave signals of a man not being at peace with himself or the eco-system that he has been living in. His rebellious decision to dabble with the now defunct Indian Cricket League or his occasional temperemental outbursts were in sharp contrasts with the otherwise shy, smiling man.

Finally, Rayudu seemed to have settled down when he blazed the IPL 2018 in the yellow jersey of Chennai Super Kings. The effort opened the doors for him to the India squad that toured England in mid-2018. But his failure to meet the Yo-Yo standards meant that he could not join the Indian team. However, Rayudu returned for the Asia Cup held in UAE in September, 2018 and produced scores of 60, 31, 13, 12, 57and 2 and he also got a chance to bat at No 3 as Kohli took a break.

When Kohli returned for the limited over series against West Indies at home, Rayudu dropped down to No 4, his designated slot, and came up with knocks of 22, 73, 22 and 100. He was dropped after two middling outings against Australia away from home but returned to emerge the highest run-getter in the ODI series against New Zealand - 190 runs. But Vijay was emerging from the other end quite silently and he produced 45, 46, 32, 26 and 16 away against New Zealand and at home against Australia.

Rayudu made 13, 18 and 2 against the Aussies and was dropped after the third ODI. Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri had said that efforts in the IPL will not have a major impact on the players' selection for the World Cup but here too Rayudu could not keep himself above the water, and all he could manage was just one fifty in eight innings for Chennai and it was insufficient for the selectors to give him edge over Vijay. The scores of 28, 5, 1, 0 as opener and 21, 21, 57 and 5 at No 4 were not the numbers expected from a contender for the World Cup berth.

At the other end of the spectrum, Vijay, apart from being a technically and temperamentally sound batsman, offered the selectors the luxury of a fine fielder and an occasional bowler, two points missing from Rayudu's case diary. Rayudu can bowl but as of now he has been barred from bowling in international matches for an illegal action. It might also have contributed to the fact that India no longer have the likes of Sachin Tendulkar or Sourav Ganguly or Yuvraj Singh or Suresh Raina who could have slipped in a couple of useful overs, a very handy proposition to have in limited-over cricket.

In England, teams will at some stage encounter a gloomy sky and a ball darting around like a dragon fly and the selectors might have thought having Vijay will add value to the side on those days.

On Tuesday (April 17), it was attributed to a BCCI official that Rayudu will be in the standby list along with Rishabh Pant, another man who missed the flight to Heathrow, and pacer Navdeep Saini. But that will be a small consolation and certainly he would not be looking to cash in on someone else's misery. Rayudu was close to making to playing eleven for World Cup in 2015 held in Australia and New Zealand and the storyline got worsened four years later, missing the flight altogether.

At 33, Rayudu won't be nourishing any unrealistic hopes of being in the mix for World Cup's next edition in 2023. It will make this a blow too heavy to accept, too burning to balm over. The powers that be must ensure that he is not left alone on his own trip, and for that matter Pant too. But Rayudu has seen struggle and came out of it and that experience could be his biggest hope.

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Story first published: Wednesday, April 17, 2019, 15:40 [IST]
Other articles published on Apr 17, 2019
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