Has India found a reliable No. 4 in Ambati Rayudu?

With the 2019 World Cup nearing, the Hyderabad batsman's solid performances have helped him seal the No.4 spot at least till the ICC showpiece event.

Published : Oct 30, 2018 19:25 IST , MUMBAI

Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu combined for a 211-run stand for the fourth wicket in the fourth ODI against West Indies.
Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu combined for a 211-run stand for the fourth wicket in the fourth ODI against West Indies.

Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu combined for a 211-run stand for the fourth wicket in the fourth ODI against West Indies.

Ever since the 2015 World Cup, India has been looking for a reliable No. 4 ODI batsman. And after trying out 11 different batsmen for the crucial slot, Ambati Rayudu finally seems to have secured it for himself.

If his solid performances since returning to the side in last month’s Asia Cup made Virat Kohli admit that Rayudu was being looked at “as a permanent number four”, his hundred during the fourth ODI versus the Windies meant the Hyderabadi batsman had made the position his own. At least till the World Cup, which starts in seven months.

So fluid was Rayudu with his stroke-making at the Brabourne Stadium on Monday that he even matched the big-hitting Rohit Sharma during the duo’s 211-run partnership. Rayudu’s 81-ball 100 — his third in what has been a stop-and-start ODI sojourn — was followed by Rohit, the vice-captain, pronouncing that the debate over the No. 4 slot was over.

Waxing eloquent

“It was (a) very important (knock). Hopefully, he has solved all the mysteries of No. 4. I guess, till the World Cup, there will be no questions on No. 4,” said Rohit.

“He batted brilliantly... It was a pressure innings. I thought he responded really well to that situation. He batted freely once he got his fifty. He started playing those shots.

“We have known Rayudu for a long time and that he can produce the kind of innings he did today. That’s probably the reason we got him at No. 4, and he hasn’t disappointed. He has done well with whatever opportunities he has got. He came back in the Asia Cup and now he has grabbed the opportunity with both hands.”

The resurrection

Rayudu sealing the No. 4 slot at the Brabourne was surreal in a way. Having lost his way after being touted as the next big thing following his under-19 heroics, Rayudu joined the unauthorised Indian Cricket League. Once he returned to the BCCI fold ahead of the 2010 Indian Premier League, after being handpicked for Mumbai Indians by Sachin Tendulkar, it was at the same stadium that Rayudu started his resurrection.

With Brabourne being a makeshift home for the 2010 season, Rayudu held the MI middle-order together as the team progressed to the last-four for the first time. Since then, MI and Rayudu steadily started tasting success. But a major knee injury, after a successful tour to Zimbabwe in 2016, kept Rayudu on the sidelines for a better part of the next two years.

Once again he returned with a bang in the IPL earlier this year, this time with Chennai Super Kings. An India call-up was imminent, but he was withdrawn from the ODI squad to England since he couldn’t clear the mandatory fitness test. He did clear it before the Asia Cup and has not looked back.

The team management will now be hoping to find a concrete solution for 5, 6 and 7 slots as the World Cup nears.

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