Rayudu plays down middle-order competition

Ambati Rayudu, who has been recalled to the Indian side, played down competition for the vacant middle-order slot in the build-up to the next year's World Cup.

Ambati Rayudu last made an international appearance in 2016 against Zimbabwe. (File Photo)   -  Sudhakara Jain

With his supple wrists and newfound power, seldom does Ambati Rayudu play a cricket ball with a dead bat. But the Hyderabadi batsman makes it up when it comes to addressing the media. Saturday was no exception as Rayudu, recalled to the Indian side after clearing the mandatory fitness test, played down competition for the vacant middle-order slot in the build-up to the next year's World Cup.

“To be very honest, (I) haven't thought about it or looked at it as a competition. It is just an opportunity to express myself and I don't want to put more pressure to my game by thinking about these (things),” Rayudu said before India's training session at the ICC Academy.

Considering the stiff competition and the inability of any of those who have been tried out at No. 4 over the last couple of years – be it Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane, K.L. Rahul or Dinesh Karthik – the vital slot in the middle-order remains open with the World Cup barely months away.

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Interestingly, if Rayudu not suffered a knee injury after his last international appearance – in Zimbabwe in June 2016 – he may have sealed the position with the India team management banking on him back then.

Rayudu, who missed competitive cricket for almost a year, said he didn't get frustrated since the knee injury.

“I don't think there was period of frustration. After 2016, I was injured for year. This year I played well in the IPL. Main thing is I feel age doesn't matter as long as you are fit.” he said.

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The middle-order stakeholders will get an additional slot to fill in during the Asia Cup, with captain Virat Kohli missing in action from the continental showdown. Rayudu admitted that the team will “miss” Kohli, but added that with a “go-to man for everybody in the team” like veteran Mahendra Singh Dhoni around, the team is confident of putting up an excellent show in the tournament.

India will begin its Asia Cup campaign on Tuesday against Hong Kong.