Would Ambati Rayudu have been on that flight to London instead of an uncapped Mayank Agarwal to replace an injured Vijay Shankar if he had kept away from Twitter on 16 April? Only MSK Prasad, the Chairman of Selectors can answer this question.
For those ignorant of Rayudu’s tweet, he had made a sly reference to Prasad describing Vijay Shankar as a “three dimensional player”. Rayudu cheekily wrote : “Just ordered a new set of 3d glasses to watch the World Cup.”
During more than one bilateral series, Rayudu was tried at the number 4 spot. He had done well during the 2018 edition of the IPL for Chennai Super Kings, giving an indication of his ability to accelerate the scoring and find the angles on the field. Virat Kohli even dropped hints that the team had settled the number 4 dilemma with Rayudu coming good at the spot. But trouble began soon after.
He failed the Yo-Yo test in June last year and was ignored for the England tour. He passed it later and was selected for the Asia Cup in Dubai and the home series against the Windies. Things were looking good till he hit a rough patch Down Under save one innings against the Kiwis. He could not replicate his earlier form.
Yet if Rayudu and Shankar were the two batsmen in contention for the number 4 slot and the latter had now got injured, it was only obvious that the Hyderabadi cricketer should have got a call from Birmingham. Instead an opening batsman has been selected to replace a middle order bat. Why shouldn’t this raise eyebrows and lead to conspiracy theories that Rayudu is paying the price for his indiscreet tweet? Though frankly, the tweet too can be seen as just an expression of his disappointment with his exclusion from the World Cup squad.
Prasad and the team management need to clarify on why Mayank was preferred over Rayudu.
Controversies are not new to Rayudu. In fact, as someone who has followed his career, I can say Rayudu was certain India material long before he actually cracked the spot. He wasted some years by joining the rebel ICL. And unfortunately for him, his cricketing talent was always spoken of in the same breath as his temperament.
A public spat at the Anantapur cricket ground with former National selector Shivlal Yadav’s son Arjun Yadav, a verbal altercation with Harbhajan Singh during the 2016 edition of the IPL and a case of road rage involving an elderly person in 2017 have not helped Rayudu’s cause. Though not seen as the enfant terrible of Indian cricket, like say someone like Sreesanth was, Rayudu only reinforced the perception of someone who did not pull his punches with that sarcastic tweet directed at Prasad.
One is not sure if Rayudu will get a chance to wear the India blue during series after the World Cup. But clearly, the powers-that-be have been less than fair to this talented middle order bat who has played 55 ODIs with three centuries and ten fifties, at a healthy average of 47.06. It would have been in India’s interest to have Rayudu strengthen the fragile middle order in England. Number 4 slot is for a specialist batsman, not for an all-rounder or an opening batsman asked to do a makeshift job.