Rayudu breaks through

Ambati Rayudu is now in the Indian team. It is up to him to put the squad in the driving seat.-K. PICHUMANI

Ambati Rayudu is now disciplined and focussed and struck a half-century on his debut for India against Zimbabwe. A profile by V.V. Subrahmanyam.

For all those who are familiar with the career-graph of Ambati Rayudu — he plays for Baroda in the Ranji Trophy — it was not a real surprise when this 27-year-old exciting stroke-maker finally made it to the Indian team. Grabbing the opportunity with both hands, Rayudu, scored a good half-century and what was “most satisfying” was he hit the winning boundary (63 not out) against Zimbabwe in Harare on July 24.

That Rayudu was on the radar of the national selection committee was pretty obvious when he was in the Indian squad for the T-20 matches against England last December. But he did not figure in the playing XI.

Well, many in Hyderabad recall one of his magnificent efforts as a teenager when he hit an amazing 152, including 10 sixes, when his college team chased a victory target of 156. When there were doubts about this effort, Rayudu himself clarified in his typical style: “Sir, I did not give strike to my partner and I went after the bowling.”

There was always a touch of class to his batting. It is an undeniable fact that right through his career, the focus was more on the key factor – discipline – than on his brilliance with the willow. “He is the most exciting talent I had ever seen in domestic cricket after the advent of Sachin Tendulkar,” remarked former India left-arm spinner S. L. Venkatapathi Raju long back.

In the same breath, there were many who always raised serious questions about his discipline. “For someone so talented, he would have played for India long back if only he had shown the desired cricketing discipline,” insists another former India star from Hyderabad.

Perhaps, this is the reason why it took exactly a decade for Rayudu to make it to the Indian team after his brilliant performances in England with the under-19 team when he ran up scores of 35, 82, 172. Robin Singh was the coach of the team.

Rayudu has learnt a lot from fellow-Mumbai Indian Sachin Tendulkar.-VIVEK BENDRE

Clearly, the long wait for Rayudu has come to an end and on a very promising note even if it was against the not-so high quality Zimbabwe bowling. He was also with the Indian team as a replacement (for the injured India captain M. S. Dhoni) in the West Indies in the recent triangular series.

“I am really glad that he not only played for India but played a very sensible innings even as his captain Virat Kohli was scoring a century,” says Vijaya Paul, who along with Nagesh Hammand, moulded the raw talent of Rayudu when he was a schoolboy cricketer.

The huge relief in Rayudu’s family is also understandable given the cricketer’s equations with the powers-that-be. He had also played for Andhra in the 2005-06 season.

He then joined the rebel Indian Cricket League — a decision which led to a two-year ban by the BCCI. With wisdom dawning on him and a slice of luck favouring him, Rayudu was back in the official fold and was a visibly changed cricketer.

“Yes, my stint with Mumbai Indians changed my outlook. There is no doubt about that. I owe a lot not just to my first coaches and Sanath Kumar of Baroda, but also to the great Sachin Tendulkar and everyone in the MI team. Tendulkar’s work ethics and simplicity were a major influence on me. They always kept telling me the importance of playing to my potential,” Rayudu had said sometime back.

“It is a dream-come-true to play for India and the onus is on me to keep improving,” he had said when selected for the West Indies triangular series.

“Well, it is always better late than never. I always believed in myself that I could make it big. I am grateful to all the coaches, teammates in different outfits and friends and my own family members for their wonderful support over the years,” Rayudu had said. He was a member of the 2013 IPL winning team, Mumbai Indians, and also scored 650-plus runs for Baroda in the last Ranji season.

It is pretty obvious that Rayudu is out to make the most of the opportunities that are likely to come his way after an impressive debut in the ODIs for India. “The onus is on me to perform and live up to the expectations,” he insists.