Seriously? Mayank to Replace Shankar When Rahane is in England!

Mayank Agarwal is yet to make his ODI debut for India.

Updated
ICC World Cup 2019
5 min read
Ambati Rayudu (centre) or Ajinkya Rahane (right) would have made more sense as Vijay Shankar’s replacement. 
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All-rounder Vijay Shankar is the latest casualty in the Indian side to be ruled out of the World Cup due to an injury; and his replacement – Karnataka batsman Mayank Agarwal – has left cricket enthusiasts across the country wondering.

Shankar, who was hit on his toe by a yorker from Jasprit Bumrah in the nets, has been nursing an injury for more than 10 days.

However, the ‘niggle’ aggravated, and Shankar had to miss India’s match against England on Sunday, 30 June as a result – giving Rishabh Pant a chance to make his World Cup debut.

Now, Agarwal’s inclusion into the squad has met with a shocked reaction from fans, most of whom were expecting an Ambati Rayudu to get a spot. But apart from Rayudu, former vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane makes a better case to join India’s World Cup squad in England.

Mayank Agarwal is a one of the leading run getters in domestic circuit and has scored heaps of runs in the last few seasons. Deservingly, he made his Test debut last year and fared well, scoring a 76 and 77 in the two Tests Down Under.

But with all due respect to Mayank’s astonishing domestic record and the super start to his Test career, BCCI’s decision seems confoundingly illogical, keeping in mind the fact that Agarwal is yet to play an ODI for India.

Ajinkya Rahane is Already in England

 Ajinkya Rahane  is already in England playing county cricket for Hampshire.
Ajinkya Rahane is already in England playing county cricket for Hampshire.
(Photo: PTI)

Remember, Ajinkya Rahane has been in England since last month, playing county cricket for Hampshire.

Apart from the fact that he is already familiar with the English conditions, courtesy his county stint, Rahane has experience on his side. A veteran with 90 ODIs and around 3,000 runs under his belt, Rahane has three centuries to vouch for him.

He ticks all the boxes that probably clinched the deal in Mayank’s favour.

A specialist opener, which India desperately need after the Dhawan’s departure, Rahane has done decently at the number four position also. Apart from addressing the exclusion of Vijay Shankar, Rahane would have also help India tackle Rahul’s woeful form at top of the order as a back-up opener.

Rahane has opened for India in 54 ODIs, scoring around 2,000 runs. All his three centuries have come at the top of the order.

Even at number four he is a good option due to his ability to consolidate his innings. In his 25 innings at the number four position he has scored 843 runs, including 6 fifties.

Even in the previous edition of the World Cup, Rahane was India’s designated number four.

Wasn’t Rayudu the Obvious Replacement?

Ambati Rayudu has an average of around 43 batting at the number four position.
Ambati Rayudu has an average of around 43 batting at the number four position.
(Photo: AP)

For starters, Ambati Rayudu should have been the natural choice to replace Shankar. Before the World Cup, when the 15-member squad was announced, Shankar had pipped Rayudu for the highly debatable number four spot due to his ‘three-dimensional qualities.’ So, if anybody was a worthy successor of Shankar, it had to be Rayudu.

Another factor which clearly tilted the balance in Rayudu’s favour was the fact that as late as in March this year, Rayudu occupied the number four position in the batting line-up. His last match for India was against Australia in March in Ranchi. He might have had a disastrous series against Australia but preceding that series, Rayudu had a good outing at the number four position against the Kiwis in New Zealand. He scored 190 runs in five matches at an excellent average of 63.33 and a strike rate of above 82.

In fact, since making a comeback in Asia Cup last year, Rayudu has an average of around 43 batting at the number four position.

Another reason Rayudu should’ve been picked is the fact that the team management is clearly not looking for an extra bowling option – something that becomes abundantly clear by Mayank’s selection.

Remember Manish Pandey?

Manish Pandey scored an ODI century against Australia in Sydney in 2017.
Manish Pandey scored an ODI century against Australia in Sydney in 2017.
(Photo: AP)

If the team management wasn’t happy with Rayudu, they surely had few other options before zeroing in on Mayank. One of them is Manish Pandey.

Before experimenting with Ambati Rayudu at number four, Team India had interest in Project Manish Pandey at Number Four. From 2016 till the induction of Rayudu in the side during the Asia Cup last year, Pandey got ample chances to lay claim to number four spot.

But, Pandey’s inconsistency hardly helped him to make a case for himself. In his 18 innings in a span of three years, Manish has scored only 440 runs at an average of 36.67, including one century which he scored against Australia in Sydney.

The advantage that Manish would have brought with his selection was the big hitting that he is known for. His IPL records showcase that aspect of his batting. With Shikhar Dhawan out of the side, the Indian team would have certainly welcomed another swashbuckler in the side.

The fact that he is also a better fielder than the other two also makes a very strong case in his favour.

Best of Luck, Mayank!

Mayank Agarwal is yet to make his ODI debut for India.
Mayank Agarwal is yet to make his ODI debut for India.
(Photo: AP/Altered by The Quint)

Even Mumbai cricketer Shreyas Iyer, who last played an ODI for India in January in South Africa, would have been a wiser choice.

It is just that the World Cup, especially in the business end of the competition, it doesn’t make sense to play someone who is yet to make his debut in a particular format.

Nobody is questioning Mayank’s cricketing abilities. He has scored 442 runs at an average of 88.40 in List A matches in England with three centuries. Since 2018, Mayank has averaged a whopping 61.6 with 7 hundreds.

It is just that it would be unfair to him also if he is suddenly pushed into the deep end of the pool. A high-pressure World Cup game might just get the better off Mayank and might end his limited-over career prematurely.

The fact that Mayank Agarwal wouldn’t have even made it to the list of 30 probables makes the selection more weird.

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