Chairman of selectors MSK Prasad on Sunday defended the Ambati Rayudu’s non-exclusion from India’s World Cup squad, asserting that his panel cannot be accused of bias after the Hyderabad batsman announced his retirement in June.
Rayudu, who was till January being touted as India’s No 4 for the World Cup, lost the spot to Tamil Nadu all-rounder Vijay Shankar, who was termed as a “three-dimensional player” by Prasad.
This led to Rayudu posting a sarcasm-laden cryptic on his exclusion.
“Just ordered a new set of 3D glasses to watch the World Cup,” tweeted the 33-year-old, which was certainly directed at the selection committee and widely believed to be the reason behind Rishabh Pant and Mayank Agarwal’s inclusion as replacements.
Rayudu later on announced retirement from all forms of cricket.
“It was a lovely tweet. Very timely one. I really enjoyed the tweet. It was fantastic. I don’t know how it struck him,” Prasad’s responded when asked about Rayudu’s tweet during a press conference.
However, Prasad cleared the air that Rayudu couldn’t be included purely because of the permutations and combinations and that the selection committee didn’t resort to any favouritism.
“How much emotions anybody [Rayudu] has gone through, the the selection committee has gone through the same emotions
“When we pick any player and he does well, we feel so happy for him. Similarly when somebody who goes out in this way, the selection committee also feels for it. But having said that, with regards to the decision taken, it has been completely devoid of any bias or any favouritism into why we have picked Vijay Shankar, Rishabh Pant or Mayank Agarwal also,” the former wicket-keeper said in his committee’s defence.
While Rayudu has every reason to be aggrieved, Prasad reminded that when he had failed a fitness test after being picked on the basis of his Twenty20 performances, his panel had backed the Hyderabad batsman.
“I will give you a small example about Rayudu. When Rayudu was picked, on the basis of 17-18 T20s [2018 IPL performance], we picked him in One-Day Internationals. There was a lot of criticism but we had some thoughts about him subsequently.
“When he failed the fitness [Yo-Yo] test [before the England away ODI series], this selection committee backed him and we put him through a fitness programme for a month, ensured that he gets fit and comes into the side.
“Once he came into the side, we backed him but due to certain permutations and combinations in the side, we couldn’t pick him,” Prasad reasoned why Rayudu was overlooked even after Shankar got injured.
But he made it clear that his committee can’t be accused of ‘bias or favouritism’.
“That [Rayudu’s exclusion] doesn’t make the selection committee or me biased about any particular person. We know how emotional Rayudu is, we are also emotional. We as ex-cricketers, also feel for him,” he said.
He explained how Pant and Agarwal came in as replacements.
“The team management requested for a left-hander and we had no other choice than Rishabh Pant. We are very, very clear on that. We know what he is capable of. That’s the reason we had to bring in a left-hander, which confused many people as to why a middle-order batsman has been selected in place of an opener,” he said.
When Agarwal came in, Prasad revealed it was more about having a cover for KL Rahul, who had suffered an on-field injury during the game against England in Birmingham. In fact, he revealed that it was team management which had asked for an opener.
“At that juncture, a written communication was given to us on the back-up opener. We looked at some of the openers working out on certain permutations and combinations. Some were not in form, others were injured, so that’s when we went to Mayank Agarwal. There is no confusion on this and by the end of the day, all speculations should be clear,” he added.
(with PTI inputs)