Towards the end of 2018 and at the start of 2019, things were looking rosy for Ambati Rayudu. The 32-year-old Hyderabad batsman got a big endorsement from India skipper Virat Kohli when he said he would be tipped to solve the problematic No.4 conundrum for India ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019. “With Rayudu coming in and playing well in the Asia Cup, it's about giving him enough game time till the World Cup so that the particular slot will be sorted for us,” Kohli said. After a poor series in Australia, Rayudu showed his mettle at No.4 by averaging 63 in the five matches in New Zealand, including 90 in the fifth ODI in Wellington which helped India win the series 4-1.
However, since then, it has been a period of struggle for Rayudu. He managed just 67 runs in four innings in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy but his low point came in the series at home in Australia where he managed just 33 runs in three innings. The 2019 IPL, which is the last tournament before the World Cup, has also not been good to Rayudu. In the two games against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals, Rayudu has struggled to get going. His manner of dismissals will be a worrying sign for the Indian management who are monitoring the progress of the potential India squad for the World Cup.
On a poor Chepauk wicket, Rayudu top-scored for Chennai Super Kings in their chase of 71 with 28 but he consumed 42 balls. His strike-rate of 66 highlighted how he struggled for timing. In the quest to attack, he charged down the track to Mohammed Siraj and he dragged the delivery back onto the stumps.
In the game against Delhi Capitals, Rayudu was leading a charmed life. He edged an outswinger from Ishant to slip but Shikhar Dhawan at slip spilled the chance when he was four. This could have boosted Rayudu to make it big and pounce on the opportunity to seal the No.4 spot. Instead, he charged down the track to a short ball from Ishant but he was cramped for room and he ended up top-edging the pull to cover.
With such a string of low scores ever since the end of the New Zealand series, the confidence factor has dipped for Rayudu. The No.4 spot might still be open for other players who might want to make the trip to England. Rayudu still has 12 games to turn it around, but the countdown to turn it around has begun.