Fresh from his retirement from international cricket, limited overs stalwart Suresh Raina has opened a can of worms.
Reopening an old wound that took time to cauterize, the southpaw has claimed that India’s 2019 World Cup fate would have been different had stylish Hyderabad right-hander Ambati Rayudu been the think-tank’s choice for the contentious No. 4 batting slot.
As it turned out, neither Dinesh Karthik nor Rishabh Pant, who were tried at No.4 during the quadrennial showpiece, managed to come good and it was the lack of a reliable option in the crucial batting slot that eventually cost India a place in the final.
Though Rayudu was initially shortlisted as India’s preferred choice for the No.4 position, he was later omitted from the final World Cup squad as the selectors went with Tamil Nadu all-rounder Vijay Shankar.
Elaborating on the ‘rationale’ for picking a relatively inexperienced Shankar for the crucial batting slot, then chief selector MSK Prasad said that his ‘three-dimensional’ attributes (a reference to his medium pace bowling) could prove more effective in English conditions.
The selection blunder, as one may call it in retrospect, was not received well by a cross-section of Indian fans.
Clearly miffed by the surprising turn of events, Rayudu took to Twitter saying he was about to get himself a pair of ‘3D glasses’ to enjoy the experience of catching the World Cup live at home. “Just Ordered a set of 3D glasses to watch the World Cup,” Rayudu tweeted without taking names.
Though Rayudu was later named an injury stand-by, he eventually lost out to Test opener Mayank Agarwal, who replaced the injured Shankar.
As luck would have it, India’s Achilles’ heel – lack of a solid No. 4, came to hurt the Men in Blue in the business-end of the tournament. The only chink in their armour was exploited to the hilt by the Kiwis in the semi-final, as a rare failure by the top order and yet another unsuccessful expreriment at No. 4 saw India crash out of the World Cup.
Raina said he believed that Rayudu was India’s best bet at No.4, going into the World Cup. During a free-wheeling conversation with Cricbuzz, the southpaw said, “I wanted Rayudu to be India’s number four because he was working very hard, playing almost one-and-a-half years. He performed really well and wasn’t there.”
Saying his Chennai Super Kings teammate was best equipped to take the No.4 batting slot in English conditions, Raina said, “Rayudu was the best choice as it’s the way he plays the game in the CSK. And he was batting really well in the (pre-World Cup) camp in Chennai.”
After getting the cold shoulder from the five wise men, Rayudu announced immediate retirement from domestic and international cricket. He said he would never play the Indian Premier League (IPL) again, while making himself available for other T20 leagues across the world.
However, later, in a change of heart, Rayudu said he was willing to come out of retirement and represent Hyderabad in domestic events again. He said he was also open to putting himself in contention for selection in the IPL.
Saying that his retirement was an impulsive and emotional call made in haste, Rayudu said, “I’m looking forward to a wonderful season ahead with a very talented Hyderabad team and help the team realise its full potential. I will be available from September 10 to join the Hyderabad team,” Rayudu stated in a letter last year.
While it’s no secret that the selection goof cost India the World Cup, one hopes the same doesn’t befall Shreyas Iyer, who is currently the preferred pick at No.4 in the limited overs format.