VISAKHAPATNAM: Before Ambati Rayudu had made his way back into the India squad, his profile for the national side looked like an anomaly.
Though he boasted of a batting average in the early 50s in the 30-odd matches he had turned up in blue, the Hyderabad stroke-maker had been out of contention for a while. Thanks to a blitzkrieg of an IPL season where he garnered 602 runs at an average of 43.00 (strike-rate 149.75), he announced that he was ready for a national team call-up.
He missed the limited-overs leg in England after failing to pass the yo-yo test. He passed in his subsequent attempt and cemented his place in the playing XI with some useful knocks in the Asia Cup (averaged 43.75).
Before the commencement of the ongoing ODI series against the West Indies, captain Virat Kohli had made it clear that the team management has found the answer to the No 4 conundrum that had been bugging the team for a considerable amount of time.
“We believe he (Rayudu) is the right person to capitalise on that spot. He has won many games for his state and IPL team. He already possesses a great ODI record for India. I think the batting order is sorted,” Kohli had said.
As many as seven batsmen, from KL Rahul to Dinesh Karthik and Kedar Jadhav have been tried in that position since India’s tour of Sri Lanka last year. With his position in the team looking secure at the moment, does it put the right-hander under pressure considering the World Cup is eight months?
“Not really to be honest, I am just focussed on this series at the moment. And not thinking too far ahead,” he said on the eve of the second ODI. Asked about the specifics of his role as dictated by the team management, he remarked, “I don’t think this role is new for me, as I have been batting in the middle order for long. They have not asked me to do anything new.”
There are 17 ODIs left before the Men in Blue begin their World Cup campaign in England. The top-three (Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Kohli) have been in fine form. While Dhawan and Rohit have contributed 346 (six matches) and 486 (eight), Kohli has accumulated 889 in 10 games this year. In the current scenario, the CSK player knows that he might not always get opportunities to showcase his skills.
“Obviously, it’s great that the top three are doing so well. It’s a challenge for the middle order to always be ready to get in and bat. I’m sure everybody is up for it,” he opined. Shedding light on his failure to pass the yo-yo test, he replied, “I have been working on my fitness right from my injury. I don’t think the yo-yo test had any effect on how I was preparing, or how I was going about my fitness. I’m happy that I cleared the test.”