The 2019 World Cup in England and Wales is less than eight months away and India have 18-odd games left to decide their middle order, mainly the number four position where many have been tried but with little success. But India captain Virat Kohli believes that with Ambati Rayudu stepping up for that position in recent times, the batting order has been more or less settled.
“The only position we were trying to figure out was number four for a long time. We tried many players who unfortunately could not capitalise or cement their places in a way we wanted.
“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 ahead of the first ODI against the West Indies.
“The team felt there — and I also watched him — that he (Rayudu) is designed to play that middle order batsman’s role. We feel that our middle-order is more or less balanced now,” Kohli added.
Rayudu was selected in the Indian ODI squad for England tour after his strong performance in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018, where he slammed 602 runs at an average of 43.00 and a strike-rate of 149.75 for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK). However, his luck ran out as he failed the Yo-Yo test and was dropped from the squad.
But Rayudu did make a successful return at the Asia Cup 2018 in UAE last month and played a crucial role in India’s victorious campaign under the stand-in captain Rohit Sharma.
Batting at No. 3 in Kohli’s absence, Rayudu clubbed 175 runs, averaging 43.75 from six innings in the Asia Cup, virtually sealing his place for the experimental No. 4 slot.
“We believe he is the right person to capitalise on that spot. He is experienced and has won many games for his state and also in the IPL. He has a great ODI record already for India. I think the batting order is sorted,” Kohli said.
India will play 18 games before the first game against South Africa on June 5 in the ICC World Cup 2019, with the first of them being the first ODI of the five-match series against West Indies in Guwahati on Sunday.
“Now these 18 games would be to find the perfect combination that we want to take into the World Cup,” Kohli said.
“Barring injuries or niggles, we want one combination to play through and through. Apart from bowlers resting here and there in the ODIs, we only changed the No. 4 slot because we wanted someone to cement the place,” Kohli reasoned.
There has been criticism about veteran MS Dhoni’s waning batting ability. But, when asked if he was open to adjusting No. 5, 6, 7 slots, Kohli said, “Here, more often than not people want to create controversies out of nothing.
“You look at things the way you want to. You see anyone stepping out at number three according to the situation for a side in England.”
The captain said in recent past the bulk of the scoring has been done by the top three batsmen and so the lower-order got little chance to bat.
“Batting order is always ready, especially after four. The guys below four are always flexible in terms of the situation. You want the best thing for the team. Being flexible is very important,” Kohli said.
He said if the openers batted till 40 overs, the common sense was to send a hard hitter instead of him going to bat.
“There’s no rocket science to it. In T20 cricket, you do that all the time. You are flexible in what you want to do as a batting order.
“Yes, you would want a consistent batting line-up at those positions invariably but if there’s a situation where you’re only two down after 40 overs then someone who can capitalise in the death overs better can step in. As a team we understand that,” Kohli explained.