On November 6 at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad, Ambati Rayudu scored the first century of his international career against the Sri Lankans. Coming to bat after the fall of the first wicket during the 7th over, Rayudu proceeded to score 121 not out from 118 deliveries. His knock was studded with 10 hits to the boundary and 4 hits over it. After the match he stated that this was a long cherished dream that had been realised on the day when he received an unlikely promotion up the order courtesy the skipper Virat Kohli.

Kohli praised Rayudu’s innings after the match saying that he deserved his chance up the order having played for so long in the India A team – he has been playing in the second string team for 12 years now – and having been on the fringes of the national team for the last couple of years. One of the major drawbacks of Rayudu as a One Day player was his lack of acceptable strike rate – his strike rate in the 70s would have been acceptable had he been an opener but not as a middle order player. What would have pleased the pleasant batsman from Guntur is that he managed to score in excess of 100% during the innings.

Batting in the middle order 

However, there are a few questions that need to be asked as to what this century did for Rayudu’s career. To start with, his strike rate is still a problem even after this century – it has improved marginally to go up to 77.11 but it is still far away from the desirable watermark of 90-100. Considering the fact that he will bat mostly in the middle order he needs to work on this aspect of his game in order to stand a better chance at selection.

He also needs to understand the fact that as and when Rohit Sharma returns there is a good chance that he may be pushed outside the first eleven what with the Indian team preferring to go with 5 bowlers in One Day games. So in that case he would receive limited opportunities and he has to make the most of them – this is always easier said than done. He presently has an average in excess of 40 plus in ODIs, which suggests that he is capable of constructing a long innings but that would mean that he would have to be accommodated in the top order – a pretty tough proposition considering the log jam over there. So he needs to adapt his game likewise.

Uthappa and Manish Pandey

There are plenty of instances in Indian cricket of players who have done well in the limited opportunities they have received but still continue to find themselves playing for the A team. Examples such as Manoj Tiwary and Parvez Rasool spring to mind. Tiwary, in fact, scored a century when he last played for India. Rayudu also needs to keep in mind that the ODI Tri series in Australia is still some distance away and the final squad for the World Cup would be chosen on that basis. A lot could happen in the interim.

It is not as if Rayudu is without competition. There are exciting new talents such as Sanju Samson on the horizon and a decent performance in the remaining One Day games could very well bring him in contention for the Australia series as well as the World Cup later on. What will work in Samson’s favour is that he is used to playing in the middle order, can finish well and is a good wicketkeeper as well. Then there are other names such as Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey, who are pretty exciting performers as well. In all, it is a hard road for Rayudu but as of the moment he looks good enough to build on from what he achieved with his first century.