Ambati Rayudu has finally arrived

Talent alone can’t guarantee success to anyone as luck equally plays an important part in shaping ones career. Ambati Rayudu had talent from the beginning of his cricketing career and was even touted as the next Sachin Tendulkar, but this didn’t help his case for a national debut. However, after grinding himself in the sun for many years, the middle order batsman from Baroda finally got what he wanted. The 27-year-old recently made his ‘long due’ one-day international debut in the recently concluded ODI series against Zimbabwe. He always had in him to make big in the cutthroat challenging situations but bad luck and few controversies halted his progress.

Prior to all this, he showed his class at a very tender age. A brilliant unbeaten 177 from a 16-year-old opener, Ambati Rayudu, carried India to victory against the England Under-19 side, chasing a target of 304 at Taunton in 2002. India, at one stage, had fallen to 135 for six but Rayudu then added 115 runs with Kuldeep Rawat to steer his side home. As a youngster, he captured everyone’s imagination with his batting skills in his first class season debut in 2001- 02 for Hyderabad. In the very first match against Andhra Pradesh, he smashed two tons including a double century. He had technique, temperament, played copybook style shots and above all was a competitor. After seeing his initial success, he was appointed as the captain of the Under-19 Indian team for the world cup in 2004. He led India to the semifinals and was praised for his leadership qualities. Unfortunately, things turned sour for him after this.

Halfway through a disappointing 2004/05 domestic season, he could barely stand with the Hyderabad coach and had a feud with the Hyderabad Cricket Association. After this standoff with the association, he left the team to play for Andhra Pradesh for the 2005/06 season. In one of the matches against his ex-team Hyderabad, he got in an ugly spat with Arjun Yadav, the skipper of the Hyderabad side and son of former Indian player, Shivlal Yadav. During Andhra’s second innings, Rayudu’s wicket was followed with some sarcastic comments from some Hyderabad Cricketers and in particular skipper Arjun Yadav. Rayudu who felt insulted by those comments immediately told Arjun Yadav straight on his face that he (Arjun Yadav) was in the Hyderabad side only because of his father Shivlal Yadav’s influence and had he not been Shivlal’s son then things would have been something else for Arjun. Arjun Yadav got heated up with these comments from Rayudu and the former took out a stump to attack Rayudu.

Rayudu was ready with his bat to defend the attacker. But the Hyderabad players and the umpires managed to pull Arjun Yadav away and Rayudu finally went back to the pavilion. Later after a disappointing season, he went back to play for Hyderabad in the next season. By 2007, he was a broken man and had no idea about resuming his career on a bright note. Many of his Under-19 teammates were playing for India at the time when all the doors were shut on him. This was the phase when he took one more suicidal decision. He joined ICL, a rebel group to Indian Domestic Cricket, on 16 August 2007 with six other players from Hyderabad Cricket Association. He thought that this would help him in reinstalling his career which had taken a beating after his clashes with the Hyderabad Cricket Association.

BCCI was shocked over this surprising event and subsequently banned all the Indian players who participated in the league. After his association with the ICL, he was dropped from the state team as well, but he continued to play in the ICL for Hyderabad Heroes. This move could have killed his career but the failure of the Indian Cricket League gave him a second chance. Rayudu accepted the BCCI’s amnesty offer in 2009 and cut off all his links with the ICL. In 2010-11, he decided to play for Baroda after his former team Hyderabad got relegated to the Plate Division in the Ranji Trophy. He continued to impress with the bat as he scored 566 runs in 9 matches with an average of 56.60 including a double hundred and three half-centuries. It proved enough to impress Tendulkar, who took the gifted batsman under his wings in the IPL for Mumbai Indians. Rayudu was with the Mumbai Indians in the IPL 2010 edition as a middle order batsman/part-time wicketkeeper. He impressed immediately and scored a valuable 356 runs in his debut IPL season. Being classified as an uncapped player, Rayudu was not a part of the IPL 2011 auction. But immediately after the auction, Siddhartha Mallya, Team Director of Royal Challengers Bangalore and son of RCB’s owner Vijay Mallya flew to Vadodara and met Rayudu during the Ranji Trophy finals between Rajasthan and Baroda. The exact nature of the talks was unknown, but it was speculated that Rayudu rejected the offer. Mumbai Indians, who gave Rayudu a second chance after coming back from the ICL, bagged him for the 2011 season of IPL. He had another impressive season that year, scoring 395 runs in 16 matches, including 4 half-centuries. This was enough to raise his bar in the eyes of many. He accumulated 333 runs in the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League which further boosted his chances of making it to the Indian team. Meanwhile, his Ranji Trophy records quickly improved as well. In the 2012–13 Ranji Trophy season, he scored 666 runs at an average of 60.54 with a hundred and seven fifties. He played for Rest of India in the 2013 Irani Cup against Mumbai and scored 51 and 156*. He was the top-scorer in the 2012–13 Deodhar Trophy final where his innings of 78* helped West Zone chase down the target of 290 against North Zone. He was now knocking at the doors of selectors who were finding it difficult to ignore him. On 18 July 2012, Rayudu was included in 30 probables for the World T20 tournament to be played in Sri Lanka in September 2012 but failed to make it to the final squad. In December 2012, the newly-formed selection panel picked Rayudu as the replacement player for injured Manoj Tiwary for the T20 series against England. It is notable that the Chairman of this selection panel, Sandeep Patil, was also previously associated with the ICL. However, Rayudu failed to get a chance in the playing eleven in either of the T20s. During the recently West Indies tri-series in July 2013, Rayudu was named as the replacement for Mahendra Singh Dhoni who was ruled out of the series due to a right hamstring injury. This was another series where he was seen warming the bench.

With selectors deciding to rest Dhoni and retaining the same batting unit for the tour of Zimbabwe, it was obvious that Rayudu would get a chance of proving himself. He showed no signs of impatience and when he got an opportunity he grabbed it with both hands, hitting an unbeaten 63 on his debut. His inning was build around some impressive stroke play and was rock solid in pressure situations. The best part about him is that he plays according to the tempo of the game in all the formats. He has all the shots in batting arsenal and can go on the rampage from the very first ball if the situation demands. Elated after a successful ODI debut following years of struggle, Ambati Rayudu thanked Sachin Tendulkar for helping him through the tough days of waiting. “Sachin (Tendulkar) and Robin Singh have helped me a lot, and I’d definitely like to thank them for that,” said Rayudu. Taking his passion into account, there are more good things to happen for him in the near future. Surely, there’s more to come.

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