Ambati Rayudu - Making up for lost time
There are so many similarities between Ambati Thirupathi Rayudu and an average person who has been left behind by his peers in the race for success and a comfortable life.
Both these individuals have seen the harsher side of life, the impact of the questionable wisdom of their early life decisions and the subsequent misery that enveloped their entire existence.
But there is one more thing in common between the Hyderabadi and the common man – neither is willing to give up that easily.
And like Shikhar Dhawan before him, the Mumbai Indians‘ batsman is determined to make up for lost time.
Born on September 23, 1985 in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, Rayudu made his domestic debut for his state as a plucky 16-year-old in the 2001-02 season. The pint-sized teenager exhibited a solid technique; efficient in defence and unstoppable in attack, he did enough to impress the national selectors – they chose him to lead the U-19 national squad, which made it to the semi-finals of the 2004 World Cup in Bangladesh. Everyone felt it was only a matter of time before the youngster would receive an international call-up and get to play with the ‘big boys’ of world cricket.
Then came the twist of fate. Contemporaries such as Irfan Pathan, Robin Uthappa, Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik graduated to the senior side, while their former skipper ploughed a lonely furrow in the dust bowl-like fields of domestic cricket. The bat, unfortunately, did not register as many runs as Rayudu would have liked.
His tiffs with the coach of the Hyderabad team and a lean 2004-05 season prompted a move to the Andhra Ranji squad. He had hoped that a change of scene would do his confidence a world of good and lead to an improvement in his struggles to make runs.
It didn’t work; he fared even worse. He simply couldn’t get his game right, often playing too early without moving his feet or succumbing to the pressure of scoring quick runs. The persistent ignoring from the national selectors also weighed heavily on his mind – he was growing desperate for a chance to rub shoulders with international greats. His former U-19 teammates had been on tours abroad, and the feeling of missing out on gaining such invaluable experience played on his mind.
Adding to his cup of woes, his off-field indiscretions were rising to alarming proportions. After returning to the Hyderabad team, following an unsuccessful season with Andhra, he was involved in a fracas with teammate and Deccan Chargers player Arjun Yadav – son of former India player Shivlal; Rayudu was attacked with stumps by Arjun after the latter was dismissed in a game.
With each season, the Guntur lad’s hopes of breaking into the senior national team looked bleak. At 22, he made yet another bad move – he signed up for the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL), along with six more players from Hyderabad. This surprised the BCCI, who had long touted him as the next great batting hope of the country.
It reacted swiftly – handing Rayudu and his six rebel ‘partners’ bans from all domestic cricket, and dropped him from the state team.
Rayudu was shocked, but unfazed. He went on to play for the Hyderabad Heroes and achieved his long-cherished team of playing alongside international stars such as Chris Harris, Nicky Boje and Justin Kemp, helping to steer them to the Edelweiss 20s Challenge title in 2008.
He regained his old form and began to re-invent himself as a quick run-scorer. The ICL eventually folded, and the BCCI’s ‘amnesty’ offer allowed the Andhra player to return to mainstream cricket in 2009.