Feel sad for Ambati Rayudu, but Vijay Shankar is perfect back-up option, says Ajay Ratra

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Feel sad for Ambati Rayudu, but Vijay Shankar is perfect back-up option, says Ajay Ratra

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Bastab K Parida


Former Indian keeper Ajay Ratra has sympathized with Ambati Rayudu on his World Cup exclusion but quickly added that Vijay Shankar’s selection is an inspired one. Ratra has further added that India can use MS Dhoni as a floater in the batting order depending on the match situations.

For Ambati Rayudu, life has been a roller coaster ride in the last one year or so. A superb IPL stint with the Chennai Super Kings in 2018 saw the rise in his stock as a cricketer and even made the Indian team management zero in on him for the No.4 spot in the World Cup. However, the dwindling form and under-confident look didn’t help his cause as the senior national selection committee decided to do away with the Hyderabadi batsman in favour of Vijay Shankar for the grandest stage of ODI cricket - the World Cup. 

Shankar, who was a late draft in to the side for the Australia series after Hardik Pandya was banned, has managed to play some impactful innings whenever he got a chance to bat. a tally of 145 runs in five innings accentuated his progress in the pecking order. The fact that he is a superb fielder and a proper sixth bowler may have finally ended BCCI's four-year long search of a perfect man for the occasion. Looking at the scenario, Ratra said, although he was sad for Rayudu, the Tamil Nadu all-rounder’s selection adds value to the combination.

“I feel very sad for Rayudu. He played some interesting innings for India in the past. But I also feel it is also a right decision to back Vijay Shankar. He has all the cricketing shots without taking too much of a risk. In New Zealand, he played a couple of good innings which helped him. His rotation of strike and the way he plays those grounded shots is very good. Then again, I feel bad for Rayudu too. He was so good for India in the past and was in contention for the World Cup too,” Ratra told SportsCafe in an exclusive interview. 

One of the things that had left the cricket fans divided was the selection of Dinesh Karthik ahead of Rishabh Pant. Chairman of the national selection committee MSK Prasad revealed that the keeping abilities were the major reason behind Karthik’s selection because they were only looking for a back-up for MS Dhoni in case he suffers any injury in the middle of the tournament. Ratra also backed Prasad's thought-process and said Karthik’s selection was a well-thought-out one.

“It must be a very close call between Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant. But Karthik gets the edge as far as wicket-keeping and experience. Although Pant is improving well as a keeper, I feel, DK’s selection was a well thought out one because of the sheer skill you need in World Cup,” Ratra added.

Karthik has been very inconsistent for team India whenever he got a chance and much of it has to do with the fact that he never had a fixed batting position. Coming mostly down the order, he essayed the role of a finisher a lot, which means big scores still eluded him. Ratra said Karthik’s performances should be judged on that prism.

“Karthik was batting down the order many a time - sometimes at No.5 or No.6. More often than not, it is difficult to score the first 20 runs. Once he scores the first 20 runs, it becomes easy to convert them to good scores. But Karthik comes in either at a position when the team were chasing or most of the job were done. And in the slog over, he has to bat with extra risk. So when he comes out to bat at No.6, he might not give you a big scores but all those small cameos like 35 runs of 20-22 balls in a crucial juncture were as good as a century.

“Even if you look at Nidahas Trophy final, he scored 25 runs off just 9 balls. If he is playing these kinds of innings, then it is okay not to hit a big one. These performances in the lower-middle order helps the team in a way that would be very helpful at times. If you look at the IPL, all the top scorers like David Warner, KL Rahul, Johnny Bairstow and Chris Gayle, all are openers. It is fine if DK does give you that option in the middle-order. As far as keeping is concerned, definitely he is a better prospect and someone who holds the key against spinners in the middle overs behind the stumps.”

Despite India being blessed with the best top three batsmen in the world, the race for the No.4 spot is not yet finalised. If the team selection has anything to go by, then Vijay Shankar might get the nod in the playing XI ahead of KL Rahul, who MSK Prasad called a "back-up opener" in the team announcement press conference. However, Ratra is of the opinion that the No.4 should be flexible and the timing of MS Dhoni’s batting should also depend on the match situation.  

“Batting order should always remain flexible all the time and should change as per the situations. However, instead of No. 4, the timing MSD going out to bat should matter the most. If only two batsmen were out in 40 overs, I would prefer Hardik Pandya to come in instead of Vijay Shankar or MS Dhoni. As per conditions, the batting order can be altered,” the 38-year-old, who represented India in Six Test matches and 12 ODIs, said.

During all ICC trophies, UK has always offered some high scoring surfaces and that has mostly to do with the fact that the heat makes the wicket dry during English summer. Spinners will have a major role to play in the middle overs as was the case in 2013 Champions Trophy where Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja wreaked havoc in India’s championship run. Ratra said it would be a good option to keep both Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal in the team, but that should depend on the team combination at the top.

“In English summer, spinners will have a say, especially when the wicket will dry down in the second half. Then the management has to think whom to play and whom not to. If Hardik and Bhubaneswar are playing, Virat Kohli can go with both the wrist-spinners and in case Bhuvi doesn't play, then the team can have Ravindra Jadeja to extend the batting depth of the team,” the former Indian wicket-keeper concluded.

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