The Rayudu Saga: I bought myself an above the sightscreen, with the best view in the house ticket for the 1st ODI match between India Vs Australia. Oh yeah, it did make a hole in my pocket, but I didn’t even think twice before I splurged. “I ought to watch and appraise my team first hand which is to set sail carrying yet another world cup dream”. At the ground zero, nearly the entire crowd was cladded in Indian jersey with the names of their demigods “Dhoni” and “Kohli” on their backs, the crowd literally went insane with chants in unison of these two while they took the field. Amidst all the attention focussed upon those two, nil acknowledgement was catered to the homeboy in Jersey No 5, who implicitly walked into guard the fence at long on.
My memory then sympathetically slipped into the past and flashed me with my growing up years when this man “Ambati Rayudu” who lead the Indian team at the Under-19 World Cup 2004 was heading towards nothing less than greatness. But, just like how the crowds ignored him, destiny also kept him at bay, making him go down the toughest route ever taken by a cricketer to fulfil his dream of earning the blue jersey.
Ambati Rayudu for me epitomizes grit, he might not end up being a stalwart in the game, but his grit for glory is certainly a lesson for all aspiring cricketers to take note of. The brightest prospect of India cricket without any exaggeration made the entire cricket fraternity brace up to witness this eloquent stroke maker to soon break into the senior Indian Team and serve for long. But, a mediocre Ranji Trophy 2004-05 season in which he averaged a mere 11.92 and the fall out with Hyderabad Cricket Association was the start of his jinx.
His long tryst with destiny started while he moved to Andhra Cricket Association, where his ugly on-field brawl with the Hyderabad Cricket captain, Arjun Yadav made things worse.
THE JINX CONTINUED
Rayudu though returned to Hyderabad Cricket team the following year, was one amongst the major chunk of the Hyderabad Ranji team which flocked to the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) in 2007. At this juncture, Rayudu for his batting prowess in the newly introduced entertaining T20 format hogged all the limelight across the country and became the poster boy of ICL in both 2007 & 2008 seasons through his staggering performances.
Rayudu though shot to fame at the rebel league and was happy. His chances of making it to the Indian cricket team took a serious dent and further were jeopardised when BCCI barred all the players in the ICL from its contract.
MUMBAI INDIANS CAME CALLING
After ICL getting dissolved, a glimmer of hope shined and all was not over for Rayudu as he took the BCCI amnesty offer in 2009 and was back in the domestic grind where he averaged 43 playing for Hyderabad in the Ranji trophy season 2009-2010 and after a two year mandatory cooling off period the nautical star appeared bright for Rayudu with Mumbai Indians who after scouting the best from ICL offered him an IPL contract in the 2010 season along with Ganesh Satish and Stuart Binny.
Rayudu who was never short of neither runs nor talent regardless of wherever he played now had a herculean task at hand in the chase of the dream what he set forth as a child. He surely broke few hearts when he left Hyderabad after it got relegated to Plate division in the Ranji Trophy to Join Baroda team in the 2010-11 Ranji season. But Rayudu’s task at hand was cut short, he had to emulate a “Super Hero” and sure he braced like one and made his bat do the talking as he went onto amass staggering 566 runs that season at an average of 56.60 and also went onto become the third highest run scorer for MI in his maiden IPL season, which enabled MI to renew his contract for the 2011 season.
THE GOAT HAD AN EYE ON HIM
Rayudu had yet another sensational Ranji Season with Baroda in which he went onto average 48.75. His fortunes skyrocketed with money, fame and entrustment provided by Mumbai Indians to which he did no harm as he further enhanced his performance by scoring 396 runs in 2011 IPL season and became the second highest run scorer for Mumbai Indians only behind the GOAT, “Sachin Tendulkar”.
With career graph peaking and runs coming thick and fast in heaps from all formats of the game Rayudu made the selectors not afford to ignore him and soon came the India A call up in which Rayudu scored 105 and 26* in the tour to New Zealand. He made his name go rounds during the 2012 ICC World cup T20 and later was named as a replacement during the 2012 T20 series against England but still didn’t get a game.
ODI CAP 296
Rayudu’s grandeur once again came to its repute and he once again went back to the domestic circuit and piled up an average of 60.54 in the Ranji’s and top-scored in both Irani Cup and Deodhar trophy in the 2012-13 season. He thus broke opened the solid door’s and made it into the playing 11 of the Indian ODI team in which he once again played a crucial knock of 63* and become the 12th Indian to make a half-century on debut.
His consistency made him a regular in the Indian squad and also earned him a spot in the 2015 world cup team. Later the emergence of a lacklustre bunch of performers has created a heavy competition amongst the players and Rayudu without placing any foot wrong lost his place in the Indian team, but soon the scintillating 2018 IPL season erased all doubts and brought him into the reckoning to be the No 4 for Team India.
As they say, “let the bat do the talking” Rayudu spoke through his bat often, if his travesty with rare controversies is ignored. The toil with grit, the hunger for runs and a steady head with a great ability to read the game makes Ambati Rayudu a “TOUR-DE-FORCE” at the world cup sans a dip in recent form.
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