Just six months after being hailed by the Indian captain, Virat Kohli, as the team’s fix for the number 4 spot, batsman Ambati Rayudu has fallen from being a remedy to becoming just a standby as the Men in Blue prepare for their 2019 ICC World Cup quest in England.

The impetus behind his fall from the grace isn’t really based on his return though, as he has been one of the most consistent performers for India especially in the away conditions. Since January 2018, Rayudu has scored 389 runs at 43.22 in 13 innings – scoring three half-centuries in process.

Above all, his return during the New Zealand tour – 190 runs at 63.33 – isn’t something that might concur the opinion whether he is really struggling or not. The selectors on April 15, 2019, thought the issue is deeper than it seems and judging by the recent performances, all-rounder Vijay Shankar appeared as the obvious choice.

Rayudu’s exclusion from the World Cup squad reopened the ‘curious case’ saga of India’s number 4 spot and since the announcement, the debate has only gotten worse. Shankar’s election was solely based on his all-around abilities, or as the selectors said, ‘his 3-D skills’.

"It's not anything that went against him," MSK Prasad said on Rayudu's absence from the World Cup squad. "It's only the thing that went in favour of Vijay Shankar because he adds a bit more dimensions to that role and with his fielding and bowling abilities. That's where he scored ahead of him."

Shankar’s abilities were in full display during the ODI series against Australia at home. But the 28-year-old had already given a glimpse of his composed style of play in the only game he batted; away against New Zealand in Wellington. India was struggling for grip and in no time, found themselves at 18/4. Ironically, it was with Rayudu that Shankar bailed India out of their misery, forming a formidable partnership of 98 on the back of which India posted a respectable 252.

AFP / Marty Melville

All those stern performances, however, have come while coming down the order. Hence, the scepticism about his abilities at number 4 over Rayudu still remains. In all fairness, Shankar looks decent on the crease and is someone who can chip in with satisfactory return coming a bit down the order. For the number 4 slot though, there remains a huge canvass to debate about.

If we are to compare India’s batting order to that of their serious title rivals, they remain a mediocre unit, to say the least. Take England and Australia for instance; a contingent comprising of Ben Stokes, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell is any day better than India’s middle order. That might look like a harsh review, but you cannot turn your back to reality.

Above all, India’s audacity of meddling with an already bleak spot is something to take note of. Shankar indeed provides extra ammunition with the ball and his fielding, but you simply cannot have bits and pieces players at such crucial spot.

Post Yuvraj Singh, India have tried the likes of Manoj Tiwary, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and even Dinesh Karthik for the place, but the upshots have always been disappointing. However imperfect Rayudu was, he was the closest India came towards finding an aid.

Is World Cup a stage of performing the try-outs? Well, India is well on course for that. Rayudu indeed has seen his hardships over the past few ODIs and he cannot blame anyone else but himself for finding him in the middle of nowhere.

At the end though, 3-D is the new urging.