Rayudu makes a bold statement

Rayudu makes a bold statement

Anyone who has even randomly followed Ambati Rayudu’s fluctuating career would seriously wonder if the batsman suffers from a split personality.

Off the field he is polite to the fault whether it’s an informal conversation or a press conference where it’s difficult to extract a half-decent reply from him.

Sample this -- after scoring his maiden ODI hundred against Sri Lanka in Ahmedabad on Thursday, he wasn’t even willing to give a straight answer to a question as harmless as “when were you told that you would be batting at No 3?!”

His soft exterior nature, however, belies the number of controversies -- some of which can be termed simply unacceptable -- he has been involved in from a very young age. Rayudu has been an enigma of sorts in Indian cricket.

Touted as India’s next big batting hope when he was barely 16, the gifted batsman was almost lost to Indian cricket. From his ugly on-field fight with his former Hyderabad team-mates to incurring BCCI’s wrath for opting to play in the now-defunct Indian Cricket League, Rayudu has often showed suicidal tendencies so far as his cricketing career is concerned.

He, in a way, is an antithesis of Hyderabad cricket which can pride itself on producing some of the least-controversial cricketers in the country.

The more charitable ones though term Rayudu as a rebel of sorts and among them is his first coach and former Hyderabad batsman Vijay Paul. “How he has come to assume this image is hard to understand for me,” Paul starts. “People keep talking about his attitude and all that but, I think, his aggression on the field as a cricketer is perceived as his arrogance,” Paul says in defence of his favourite ward.  

Those closely associated with Hyderabad cricket vouch for Rayudu’s penchant for rubbing almost everyone the wrong way but they also feel a bit sad that he missed out on playing for India for so many years for reasons other than his cricketing abilities.

Some say he didn’t receive proper guidance when he needed it the most and others feel he wasn’t willing to listen to anyone. So, as it transpired, he moved to Andhra and then returned to Hyderabad before switching to ICL in 2007. He came into the BCCI fold after accepting its one-time amnesty and since then has slowly worked his way up playing for Baroda in first-class cricket and more importantly for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.       

“He was with me right till his under-19 days and I didn’t see anything that I could say was wrong with his conduct,” Paul stresses. “… But after that he got picked in the State team and he was with the Hyderabad Cricket Association from then onwards and worked with various other coaches. He went on from strength to strength and proved in all levels. At 16, he had scored a hundred in England and was the captain of the Indian under-19 team. On his Ranji debut he scored a century and a double century against Andhra in the same match. Till then it was all smooth sailing for him but things after that slowly turned difficult for him. But if you ask me, it was never his fault,” he explains without getting into any details.

His on-field skirmish with team-mate Arjun Yadav, son of current BCCI president Shivlal Yadav, was perhaps the spark that had a rippling effect on his promising career.      

Paul, however, admits that Rayudu has changed for the better now. “He has calmed down a lot and that reflects in his batting as well. He has switched his game. Where he was an out-and-out attacking player until a few years ago, he now takes less number of risks. He has transformed his game totally. I can only say one thing he was very unfortunate to be waiting for so long.”

That’s a sentiment shared by many, including those who are not particularly fond of Rayudu’s ‘waywardness’. At 29, the one-time prodigy who saw his under-19 mates Irfan Pathan, Robin Uthappa, Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina among others make it big in international cricket, is probably closer to the end of his career than its beginning but he still has enough years left in him to make an impact and not be part of those ‘what-could-have-been’ sporting stories.

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