Asia Cup 2018: Middle-order spots up for grabs, guys are hungry – Rohit Sharma
Kedar Jadhav has played 40 ODIs from which he has scored 798 runs at 39.90 at a strike-rate of 109.01. @AFP

As the Indian’s team think-tank continues to lock down a pool of players for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England, stand-in captain Rohit Sharma has addressed the middle-order vacancies that have long troubled India and welcomed the return of Ambati Rayudu and Kedar Jadhav as valuable additions.

The No 4 conundrum, in particular, has been a worry for India. Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya and Jadhav have all been batted at No 4 over the past two years but none has been locked in.

Speaking to reporters in Dubai on Monday ahead of India’s opening game of the 2018 Asia Cup versus Hong Kong, Rohit was asked about the vacancies in the middle order and said that the likes of Jadhav, Rayudu, Pandey, Karthik and KL Rahul were all candidates eager to grab these spots.

“There are a lot of spots up for grabs … number three, four, six. All these guys are eying for that,” said Rohit. “Its not settled, obviously. A lot of guys have played in those positions. Going forward, we want everything to be settled but it gives opportunities to the guys to come and play the cricket that they like to play and seal spots.

“I wouldn’t say its a concern, but yeah if you look at the future, of course you want your team to be settled. The guys eying those spots want to be settled. Nobody likes to be dropped and brought back. We want everyone to feel safe and settled so that they can play freely. Mentally and physically, the guys are fresh so I guess they’re just a performance away from making a claim. I have to see what the best combinations can be for this particular series, and we want to give chances to as many guys as possible so that the number four and six spot is sealed. As a team we are looking forward to that and I’m sure all the guys eying those spots are hungry.”

Ambati Rayudu last played an ODI in June 2016.
Ambati Rayudu last played an ODI in June 2016. @PTI

Rayudu, 32, had lost his place in India’s ODI squad in June after failing the mandatory Yo-Yo test at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru. Once he passed it, Rayudu was jettisoned into the Indian A squad that won the quadrangular tournament last month. Scores of 62*, 48, 11 and 66 were good enough to earn him a recall. He last played an ODI in June 2016.

Jadhav, 29, did not fare as well for India B in the quadrangular, with scores of 23, 2* and 5. He returned to competitive cricket in that competition for his first taste of cricket since he was sidelined on the opening day of the IPL in April with a hamstring injury. He was a regular in India’s ODI team until he suffered a grade 2 hamstring tear during Chennai Super Kings’ opening match on April 7. Jadhav has played 40 ODIs from which he has scored 798 runs at 39.90, and a strike-rate of 109.01, to go with 16 wickets at a handy economy rate of 5.18.

For Rohit, their return to the Asia Cup was a positive. “Rayudu and Jadhav have been important members of the team. Initially before we departed for England, Rayudu was in the squad and Kedar, before he got injured [during the IPL] was part of the team,” he said. “It is good for the team that both are back because both were in form. Rayudu had a good IPL, so from a team perspective it was important that such players got opportunities. Unfortunately both got sidelined but I’m happy that they’re back and I hope they make the best of their opportunities here.”