Former India cricketer Ravi Shastri, whose tenure as India head coach ended last month, opened up on Ambati Rayudu’s exclusion from India’s 2019 ODI World Cup squad. Shastri said he had “no say” in the decision but did agree that either Rayudu or Shreyas Iyer “could’ve come in” to the squad as a specialist middle-order batter. The No.4 batter in the lead up to that World Cup was one of India’s major concerns and despite trying out various options in Rayudu, Iyer, Hardik Pandya, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant, the team management did not find satisfactory results.
Among them, Rayudu was the one who appeared to have an upper hand. In the 15 matches that he played in the two years leading up to the ODI World Cup, the right-hander averaged 42.18 and had a strike rate of 85.60.
The New Zealand tour before the World Cup, however, changed a few things. Vijay Shankar was tried out at No.4. When the selectors finally named the 15-man squad, Shankar pipped Rayudu, mainly due to his “three-dimensional” skills.
“After the Champions Trophy (2017), we tried quite a few people in that position. We did give a few more chances to Rayudu. Vijay Shankar is three dimensional. We are looking at him at no. 4 to begin with. We also have Dinesh Karthik and Kedar Jadhav. It’s not that anything that went against [Rayudu], it’s that a few things went for [Shankar],” then chairman of selectors MSK Prasad had said in a press conference.
Reacting to the selection, Shastri said he could not understand the “logic” behind selecting three designated wicketkeeper-batters in MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant in the squad.
“I had no say in that. But I wasn’t okay with three wicketkeepers being picked for the World Cup. Either Ambati or Shreyas could’ve come in. What was the logic in having MS Dhoni, Rishabh and Dinesh all together? But I never interfered with the selectors’ work, except when I was asked for feedback or as part of a general discussion,” Shastri told The Times of India.
Needless to say, the move did not work out well in the World Cup. Shankar was injured and India once again had to try out various options at No.4 without much success.
Rayudu was not ignored once but twice. Even when Shikhar Dhawan got injured and was ruled out, Pant, who was not part of the original squad, was named as a replacement instead of Rayudu.
India lost to New Zealand in the semi-final of that World Cup, which was eventually won by hosts England.
Shastri said not winning the 2019 ODI World Cup “hurts”.
“I’m not so rankled by the 2021 T20 WC exit – to be honest we weren’t among the best sides. But 2019 hurts equally bad. The start we had, then the game being carried on to the next day,” he added.
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