Dejected, Ambati Rayudu bids goodbye

Ambati Rayudu’s decision to bid adieu to all forms of cricket was an impulsive one for sure. But it, in a way, is truly representative of his character – on and off the field.

It was a pity that just weeks after India captain Virat Kohli openly stated that Ambati Rayudu would be a strong contender for the No. 4 slot, he went out of the reckoning of the team management.   -  Vivek Bendre

Right from the early days, when he slammed a stunning 153 not out chasing a target of 156 for Bhavan’s, Sainikpuri, in an inter-college one-day tournament in Hyderabad, Ambati Rayudu was believed to be a special cricketer who would scale great heights.

But destiny deemed it otherwise.

Despite a sensational start in age-group tournaments thanks to his first coach, the late Vijaya Paul – he hit a century against the West Indies in the under-15 World Cup – Rayudu remained an enigma of sorts.

Not very often does the sport come across such a bundle of natural talent. It’s not that Rayudu was incapable of inconsistency; there was a lack of disciple in is attitude, both on and off the field, that has proved costly.

A genius who defied the copybook style of batting, Rayudu was always a delight to watch, as was evident in his double century and century in his second Ranji Trophy match against Andhra Pradesh under former India left-arm spinner Venkatapathy Raju.

Rayudu shot to prominence when, at 17, he scored 35, 84 and 172 as opener for the India under-19 team in a one-day series in England in 2002 under coach Robin Singh.

Critics then felt it was just a matter of time before Rayudu donned India colours. But that took 11 long years.

For a career that should have had more highs than lows, Rayudu is unfortunately remembered for his on-field tussles like the one against Hyderabad captain N. Arjun Yadav in a Ranji game when he was playing for Andhra Pradesh at Anantapur. But that was in the past when Rayudu returned to lead Hyderabad, with Arjun as coach, to wins in the Buchi Babu and the Moin-ud-Dowla tournaments.

It is an undeniable fact that Rayudu may have paid a price, in terms of missing the huge opportunity of playing for India early, when he preferred to play in 2007 in the rebel Indian Cricket League promoted by Kapil Dev.

Though the rebels were welcomed back into the Board of Control for Cricket in India fold in 2009, Rayudu lost invaluable time at the most critical phase of his career.

“I must admit that I learnt a lot playing in the 2007 ICL with so many world-class players. That was a huge learning curve, too,” he had told Sportstar then.

Later, what transformed Rayudu into a completely different cricketer and personality was his stint with the highly professional Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League. This had a sobering influence on him.

That Rayudu happened to be the first Hyderabadi to play in a World Cup (2015) in 16 years, after Mohammad Azharuddin in 1999, was itself a significant milestone.

It was a pity that weeks after India captain Virat Kohli openly stated that Rayudu would be a strong contender for the No. 4 slot, he went out of the reckoning of the team management.

Ironically, that came after playing a match-winning innings of 90 in Wellington against the pace of Matt Henry and Trent Boult after India was reduced to 18 for four at one stage!

To Rayudu’s dismay, the three-dimension perspective was dished out to justify the selection of all-rounder Vijay Shankar, prompting the Hyderabadi to tweet about purchasing 3D glasses to watch the World Cup – apparently in disgust at being snubbed for the England and Wales edition.

The final nail in the coffin was when Mayank Agarwal was chosen to replace the injured Vijay Shankar – when Rayudu was the original stand-by.

At the end of it all, it was obvious that Rayudu was not given his due. The 33-year-old was clearly heartbroken and bid adieu to all forms of cricket (he had quit first-class cricket in November 2018). It was an impulsive decision for sure, which, in a way, is truly representative of his character – on and off the field.

By all means, it was a sad end to what could have easily been a fine career in Indian cricket.

Rayudu in numbers

ODIs: 55

Runs: 1,694

Average: 47.05

Hundreds: 3

Fifties: 10

T20 Internationals: 6

Runs: 42

Average: 10.50

First-class games: 97

Runs: 6,151

Average: 45.56

Hundreds: 16

Fifties: 34