Light at the end of the tunnel for Ambati Rayudu
Sometimes, the universe makes things crystal clear. Ambati Rayudu undoubtedly had talent – very obvious, visible talent; talent that screamed out for attention, talent that forced you to sit up and take notice, talent that took your breath away.
In 2001, the coaches in the Mecca for budding cricketers in India, the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, suddenly had a new conversational ice-breaker – Ambati Rayudu’s unbelievable batting prowess. They said that the next Sachin Tendulkar had been unearthed, and that in a few years’ time Rayudu would gift India her first Test triple century, that it would be a royal disappointment if this lad did not go on to make 8000-odd runs in Test Cricket. After all, this sixteen-year-old was different from other cricketers – he was blessed.
In 2002, Rayudu hammered a commanding, unbeaten 177 against England in an under-19 match on a seaming track in Taunton. The coaches were over the moon, and cricket followers in the country were in celebratory mode. In the Ranji season that followed, he smashed a double ton and a ton in the same match – all at the tender young age of seventeen. In 2004, he went on to astutely captain Team India to the semi-finals of the under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh. More praises were heaped, and greater the expectations grew.
Ambati Rayudu was clearly tailor-made for success – he had all the right ingredients. His technique was compact, his stroke-play fluent, his temperament solid, and his work-ethic admirable. There was no doubt that Rayudu would go on to play for India, they said. It was just a matter of time, they said.
Sometimes, things just go your way. Sometimes, things just magically fall into place. Ambati Rayudu, though, was never that fortunate. The horrid combination of bad decisions and treacherous luck stalked Rayudu for most part of his career – it ensured that he could never reach the zenith of his incredible potential, and could never become the batsman the country expected him to become.
Halfway through a disappointing 2004/05 season, Rayudu was unable to see eye to eye with the Hyderabad coach and had a feud with the Hyderabad Cricket Association. He got himself transferred to Andhra Pradesh for the next season, but never felt completely at home there. Back with Hyderabad in 2006/07, he had issues with the umpires on a few occasions. He ran into trouble with Arjun Yadav, who allegedly attacked him with a stump. Gradually, Rayudu’s rock-solid temperament seemed to have worn off, and most of his supporters mentally prepared themselves for the crushing numbness that disappointment brings.