There are several sports personalities across India, whose life stories might make for a fascinating movie. One such story, is the meteoric rise of Birthday boy Ambati Rayudu. Well, the rise of Rayudu has not been without its fair share of hardships and controversies. As a matter of fact, the term “controversial” just underwhelms his journey in Indian cricket.
During the under-19 days, he was considered as the next big thing of Indian cricket. He first burst onto the domestic scene in the 2001/02 season. As fate would have it, the talented lad amassed a lot of runs in the domestic circuit and seemed to have found the magic touch for scoring runs with sheer ease.
Rayudu was then made the skipper of the India under 19 team for the 2004 Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh. The Indians eventually lost in the semi finals, but were by far the most lethal side in the tournament on the whole. That side featured a flurry of future Indian stars playing under his leadership. The likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik and RP Singh comprised that Under 19 team. But then like many youngsters, he made a few mistakes. He dared to question the system, decisions taken by the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) which went on till 2005.
Before moving to Andhra Ranji team, Ambati Rayudu was playing for Hyderabad Ranji Team under the captaincy of Arjun yadav, a batsmen with an average of 23 but could still be a captain because of his father . Rayudu was so better a player that he was on road to the national team. But politics started pulling Rayudu down giving him odd batting positions and stuff so that his son could have a better chance of being on National team. On many occasions he was made a scapegoat and he could no longer see a future in that team and so, pulled out to join Andhra Ranji Team. During a Ranji match between Andhra and Hyderabad Ranji teams, he was in the headlines again when he had an altercation with Arjun Yadav, . The altercation resulted in Yadav attacking Rayudu with stumps and physically assaulting him.
Unfortunately, the talented youngster’s career was going downhill, he had no one to guide him. RP Singh, VRV Singh and Suresh Raina, who played under Rayudu’s captaincy in 2004 U-19 World Cup, had already earned the India cap.
Just when things were looking up, Rayudu joined the “rebel” Indian Cricket League (ICL), in frustration of being continuously ignored by national selectors. The BCCI came down severely at everyone associated with the ICL, and hence Rayudu faced a ban.
The wheels of fortune, suddenly , changed in favour of this Guntur cricketer. In 2009, the BCCI pardoned ICL players, allowing Rayudu to return to domestic cricket. He travelled to Baroda, but didn’t get a warm welcome. Before he took guard, ‘experts’ questioned his inclusion, as they believed that Moti Baug ground had enough home-grown talent. However, the ups and downs had made Rayudu a matured cricketer, and this time he played straight. In the 2010/11 ranji season, he scored 566 runs from 9 games at 56.60 and in 2012/13, Rayudu got 666 runs at 60.54.
With his worst behind him, Rayudu was keen to revitalize his career and the Indian Premier League provided the perfect platform.The Hyderabad lad was picked by the Mumbai Indians. It was a dream – come true for Rayudu who played alongside his idol, Sachin Tendulkar. The batsman had a phenomenal 2010 IPL and scored 356 runs at a healthy strike rate of 144.
His consistent performances were finally acknowledged by the selectors, when he was picked for the ODIs in Zimbabwe. Chasing 229, Rayudu walked in at number 4, and played a stern knock of 63*. His knock along with Virat Kohli’s ton won the game for India. The innings marked a watershed moment in Rayudu’s career, as he continued that fine form for the rest of the series.
The golden moment for Rayudu arrived on the 6th of November 2014. Playing against Sri Lanka at Ahmadabad, he got his maiden ton. The smile on his face after reaching his ton was evident in showing what it meant to the 29 year-old. A knock of 121* off 118 while chasing 275 was indeed the icing on the cake and marked a ‘coming of age moment.’
Ambati Rayudu, was regarded as India’s primary No. 4 option in the run-up to the 2019 World Cup, but was left out of the squad for the 50-over showpiece event in England and Wales. The selectors chose an inexperienced Vijay Shankar ahead of him. In fact, the selectors did not even name him in the squad after India lost two players due to injuries at the marquee event. His omission left fans furious as he averages 47.05 in the format and did a decent job at No. 4, averaging over 41, prior to the mega event.
After exclusion from the world cup side, Rayudu tweeted “Just Ordered a new set of 3d glasses to watch the world cup” after the selectors dropped him from the World Cup squad in favour of Vijay Shankar, whom the chairman of selection committee had called a “three dimensional” cricketer.
A cricketer like him that has played so well in the IPL and for the nation, scored three 100’s and ten 50’s, and despite the way he was handled – it is a sad moment for Indian cricket. Sportnasha wishes a very happy 35th birthday to Ambati Rayudu.
By Paramdeep Rathee