In the preview to the second ODI at Ahmedabad, there was a passing remark as to how Ambati Rayudu's place in the team was the only one under the scanner in the batting department. There was also a mention as to how the situation was no fault of his as he was constantly being shunted up and down the order. On Thursday, he was once again sent in early, and this time seized the opportunity to put his stamp of class on the game. It was a knock the selectors have been wanting to see ever since Rayudu was chosen in the Indian side. It was a hundred Rayudu must have been so desperately craving for to prove he belongs at the international level.
Rayudu's knock on Thursday was a top-quality one, featuring all ingredients required to make it a memorable one. There were sweetly timed strokes all over the park, and when he used force he was successful in depositing the ball over the ropes. There has never been any doubt over Rayudu's talent. In fact, even in his short ODI career, he has played some blazing knocks. However, on a couple of occasions, he has given his wicket away after getting starts while at other times, he has had to sacrifice his wicket going for runs. At Ahmedabad, he had time to build an innings, and did the same.
Rayudu's success will now put added pressure on Rohit Sharma when he returns to the Indian squad. Rohit had forged a successful opening combination with Shikhar Dhawan last year, but in recent matches, Dhawan-Ajinkya Rahane pair has also been successful. Thus, India would be in a quandary over whether to separate them. Further, Rayudu cannot be dropped on current form, neither can Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina, who are back among the runs. Where will Sharma fit in then when MS Dhoni also returns to the number seven spot?
The selectors would be pleased by the problem of plenty, and they would be equally happy with the performance of Dhawan in the series. Following the England debacle, there were question marks over his ability, but he has proved in the first two matches that, at least at home, he remains a force at the top of the order. After a century in the opening match, he added another elegant half-century on Thursday. Kohli also chipped in with a useful knock. The last few games have helped him return among the runs, and hopefully it would boost his confidence going to Australia.
India's bowling remains a bit of a worry. Giving away 270 plus runs is not a big deal in one-dayers these days, but the fact that India allowed Sri Lanka to get there after having them in deep trouble should disappoint them. Umesh Yadav bowled with fire for a second game in a row, but he needs to remain consistent. Ishant Sharma couldn't carry on his form from the first game. Akshar Patel outdid Ravichandran Ashwin, which is both a good and bad sign. The ease with which bowlers are hitting Ashwin for sixes is a major cause of worry. India are 2-0 up in the series, but they still have plenty of work to do.
--By A Cricket Analyst