On 24th July 2013 Ambati Rayudu came full circle from once being a child prodigy to an India player – one who could be counted upon to fill in suitably in case one of the big brothers had to be rested or dropped due to injury or loss of form. 10 years back Rayudu was one of the hottest prospects going around in the Indian domestic cricket – someone who was clearly earmarked for greater honours further into his playing career. I remember reading an article in Wisden Cricinfo during 2003 where the writer was effusive in his praise while covering the preparations of Indian team A for the upcoming England tour.
It all seemed fairly simple. He had been scoring heavily – both in age group and domestic cricket – and this merited several comparisons with Sachin Tendulkar. There were many who thought that such a comparison was not entirely out of place. He had played for India in the 2004 Under 19 World Cup that had several illustrious names such as Shikhar Dhawan, Irfan Pathan, Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa and Rudra Pratap Singh.
All these players had represented the national team and it seemed it was only a matter of time before Rayudu did the same. He also played a major part in India reaching the semis with his intelligent and calm captaincy. During 2005 the Indian coach Greg Chappell was hopeful that he would be one of the pillars around whom the team would revolve in the future.
However, things went pear shaped from him from here. He switched to Andhra Pradesh and then again came back to Hyderabad. Consequently, he went on to play the now defunct Indian Cricket League where he established himself as one of the mainstays of Hyderabad Heroes, one of the leading teams of the tournament.
After accepting the amnesty offer from BCCI he came back to the mainstream and joined the Indian Premier League where for the last few years he has been playing for the Mumbai Indians and has been one of their most dependable players as well. He also changed his domestic team, again, and went on to play for Baroda. There were several factors that plagued him, not least his own fiery temperament. Once while playing for Andhra Pradesh he was involved in a heated exchange with Hyderabad players, many of whom he had grown up playing with.
However, since coming back to the fold Rayudu has been slowly building towards earning that elusive India cap. He has been playing well for the India A team whenever given the chance and his performance in domestic cricket is pretty good enough. In the 2012-13 season he scored 666 runs at an average of 60.54.
People like John Wright and Robin Singh, Rayudu’s coaches at Mumbai Indians, Roger Binny and Sandeep Patil, the present chairman of selectors rate him highly. All these people have played a major role in his cricketing upbringing – Binny was the coach at the National Cricket Academy and Patil coached the Indian A team where Rayudu was an indispensable member.
They say that morning shows the day and if you go by that saying Rayudu has made the right start with a fantastic contribution in his first match. Rayudu has shown time and again for Mumbai Indians that he can be a valuable asset lower down the order and with the traffic jam in the first 3 positions Rayudu will be looking to slot into the number 4 or 5 position.
In the last couple of years he has also started to keep wickets and shown that he is decent in that department as well. This skill can come handy when it comes to deciding between him and Dinesh Karthik for a spot in the middle order. While it is too early to make any predictions now it can be said safely that the signs are there and we all, and Rayudu no less, will be hoping that he fulfills his immense potential and helps India win more matches.