Rayudu in promised land, finally
Eight years ago Ambati Rayudu was ready to graduate to the senior India team, many believed. He had led Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Shikar Dhawan, RP Singh and Irfan Pathan to a semifinal appearance in the Under-19 World Cup.
Since then, all of the above-mentioned players have represented India, except for Rayudu.
Now, after many twists and turns in a topsy-turvy career, Rayudu finds himself a step away from playing for India after being named as a replacement for the injured Manoj Tiwary in the Twenty20 squad for the matches against England. The news of his inclusion was lost in the hullabaloo of India's Test series loss. Rayudu's minor promotion, a reward for his consistency while playing for Baroda, means the 27-year-old who had treated his talent callously and lost his way has regained the selectors' faith.
To his credit, Rayudu backed himself when making career-threatening moves. First, he went from Hyderabad, following run-ins with coaches and administrators, to Andhra and then back to Hyderabad. He left the BCCI fold and joined the rebel Indian Cricket League before returning to play first class cricket for Baroda. In between, while playing for Andhra, he scuffled with his former Hyderabad captain during which a wicket and a bat were raised with the intention of striking.
It was in the IPL that Rayudu came of age, batting with new-found maturity under the tutelage of Sachin Tendulkar, his captain at Mumbai Indians. He continued to shine season after season, and scored over 300 runs in the 2012 edition, prompting Harbhajan Singh to call him a 'special talent'.
At a time when the Indian team is in a rebuilding phase with spots opening up following the retirements of greats, Rayudu could aspire to fulfil his potential as the 'next big batsman', albeit a few years later than expected.