Over the years, India have tried several batsmen at the no. 4 spot, including KL Rahul, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, and Manish Pandey. After a string of decent performances at the Asia Cup last year, followed by an impressive show against West Indies, Ambati Rayudu looked set to be the top pick for the position. The doubts raised in January after the ODI series in Australia were removed when the 33-year-old scored 90 and took his side to a match-winning total in the 5th ODI against New Zealand in February this year.
But after the recently concluded ODI series at home against Australia, the debate over the position has again reignited. The right-handed batsman scored 13, 18 and 2 runs, respectively, in the first three ODIs and was dropped for the next two games.
Despite the poor form, former Australia opener Matthew Hayden has named Rayudu as his pick for the position. Speaking in an interview to Times of India, the former left-handed batsman said: “Rayudu is my man. I can’t believe India is even questioning that. For so long, he has been so good. I don’t know why they are questioning, maybe because you need to speak about something before the World Cup.”
“I don’t see Rahul taking that slot as much as I admire him. His time will come and if anything he is more of a stand-by opener for me as opposed to the number four slot,” he added.
Hayden’s opinion was opposite to former India pacer Ajit Agarkar. The former right-armer named the allrounder Vijay Shankar as his pick for the position. Speaking to ESPNCricinfo, the 41-year-old said: “I have a little surprise with No. 4. It is Vijay Shankar. He has shown glimpses of what he can do at the top of the order.”
Shankar scored 120 runs in four games at an average of 30 and a strike rate of 112.15 in the ODI series against Australia. He was also responsible for handing India an 8-run win in the 2nd ODI by taking two wickets in three balls in the final over.
Agarkar added: “Rayudu has been batting there for a while, but in my opinion, Shankar has a more all-round game to fit in that position. Plus, he gives Virat Kohli an option of a few overs if needed.”
The ICC World Cup 2019 will kick off from May 30 with co-hosts England taking on South Africa in the opening encounter. India will play their opening game on June 5 against South Africa.