Ahead of cricket’s grandest spectacle, BCCI had gone about its routine in announcing the 15 member hero squad that will don the blues and catch the flight to England. And as always, this world cup sprung in few surprises while few selections seemed more ad-hoc if nothing else.

Vijay Shankar has been around for some time now. Ardent fans that follow domestic Cricket and list A cricket would vouch for his skills. When the selection committee selected Vijay Shankar, who had played in just 9 international innings with a high score of 46 ahead of a more seasoned Rayudu, there was some justification, after all Vijay Shankar has a certain X factor in him. The selectors were very clear in categorically branding Vijay Shankar as a Three Dimensional player and hence earned the slot to the middle order.

So all was well very soon and the world was back to balance, India including Vijay Shankar headed to English shores. The plan was rather simple – play the group stages, win the group stages, play the knockouts, win the knockouts and finally bring home the cup. Nothing much to it. 

But sport is the world’s best theatre and there is no end to drama. Shikhar Dhawan who somehow finds his elements in ICC events is rendered unavailable to play owing to injury.

And alas, the clockwork stops. The comforting tranquility of the universe is lost as now change is warranted. The selection committee now has a task at hand, to send Ambati Rayudu to England as replacement.

It is indeed intelligible to assume that somewhere in Chief Selector MSK Prasad’s office is a note pad that has in it ” India’s No 4 Slot preference – KL Rahul, Vijay Shankar, Ambati Rayudu” and no more. For when Pant’s name came up in the press release after announcement of the squad, the committee was more than ready to acknowledge that the 21 year old Delhi lad was considered as an understudy to Dhoni. They felt DK would do a much better job at it, as he has for a decade now.

So when Rishabh Pant was named to fly to England as cover for Dhawan it triggered few things that weren’t right. There’s no doubt Rishabh Pant is the future and 10 out of 10 days I would pay to watch him play. But why Pant when the selectors were very vocal that the race was between Rayudu and Vijay Shankar. How did Pant who was running a different race in a parallel track be declared the winner of this race?
Why Pant is very clear, a SR of 130 in ODI and 160 in IPL merits selection. But how Pant is what bemuses me. What message does this give Rayudu who has all this while been palliated that he missed the mark by a whisker of two dimensions? 

And then came the grand clash, Vijay Shankar’s exit from the playing XI was inevitable as he ran out of dimensions to call upon. Rishabh Pant was called in to play this time as a specialist batsman at number 4. Once again another batsman is left wondering, this time Dinesh Karthik. No doubt that Pant’s inclusion in the XI will leave a lingering thought in DK. In the event India calls upon its keeping reserves, is he really the next in line? At a time when DK is on the bench only for his keeping, two full time keepers and two part time keepers took to the field against England in the same XI.

Finally we are received by the news that Vijay Shankar has been ruled out of the world cup, atleast now Rayudu must certainly get a go ahead. But what the universe giveth the universe taketh away! Mayank Agarwal who is prodigious but yet to play a single ODI game let alone a World Cup game is now named replacement. Not Rayudu or even Iyer, but Agarwal.

The light at the end of the tunnel seems to have died down for Rayudu who announced his retirement from all forms of cricket. In the grand scheme of things, Rayudu will go down merely as a speck. As Rayudu finally finds peace within, one can’t do much but feel sorry for him and a career of ‘what if’s?

What happens in the citadel of BCCI is not privy to us lesser mortals, and yet you would expect some discernment from the top brass of India’s Cricket Wagon. So when the BCCI or the selection committee goes on to undertake actions that contradict itself it makes us wonder what happens behind closed doors, akin to the ones that have shut on Rayudu who has now been informed that he is fifth in line to being India’s number 4, a race that he longer wants to run. 

Ramkumar Nair


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