Rayudu, Karthik emerge favourites for vacant middle-order slot

Ambati Rayudu has batted at No. 3 in all the games so far, while Dinesh Karthik walked in to bat at No. 4 twice.

Both Rayudu (left) and Karthik seem to have made the use of their opportunities.   -  AFP

Rohit Sharma knows more than a thing or two when it comes to being in and out of India's team, especially with the Test outfit. Once he took charge of the team for the Asia Cup in Virat Kohli's absence, the Mumbai marauder had made it clear he will not experiment with the team for the sake of it.

Four matches into the Asia Cup campaign, Sharma seems to have walked the talk. Perhaps it's his faith, especially in the middle-order batsmen, that has resulted in India filling in the blanks with regard to middle-order muddles ahead of the next year's World Cup.

In the absence of Virat Kohli, the Asia Cup offered the team management try out two additional batsmen in the middle-order. Ambati Rayudu, whose knee injury two years ago incidentally opened up the No. 4 slot, has batted at No. 3 in all the games so far, while Dinesh Karthik, who has been given the longest rope at No. 4 since the last year's Champions Trophy, walked in to bat at No. 4 twice, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni handed an opportunity to get some batting time in.

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Both Rayudu and Karthik seem to have made the use of their opportunities, thus staking a claim on the vacant middle-order slot with Kedar Jadhav, with the additional benefit of his effective off-spin bowling, may have virtually sealed the No. 6 slot.

That may convert the race for No. 4 – with the openers and No. 3 appear to be all but sealed – into a two-man affair between Rayudu and Karthik. Of course, the other contenders – Manish Pandey and K.L. Rahul who waiting for an opportunity in Dubai and the likes of Shreyas Iyer and Ajinkya Rahane who have been scoring heavily in the Vijay Hazare Trophy back home – will have to hope that the selectors remain an open mind.

For now, however, it looks like Rahul and Rahane may drop out of the race of the No. 4 position. Having been literally toyed around between the opening and the middle-order slots, both the batsmen find themselves out of the starting in XI, with Rahane even having been omitted from the white-ball squads for a while now. Since Rahul wasn't considered for the first two games despite his exemplary white-ball form in the calendar year, it may mean the management and the selectors have zeroed in on for an opener's role. Ditto with Rahane, who has been opening the Mumbai innings in the Vijay Hazare Trophy in the league stage.