I won’t lie, I wasn’t ecstatic when I saw that Ambati Rayadu was called up to the squad. To me, a certain Cheteshwar Pujara deserved the spot far more. But c’est la vie, and we must accept it.
Rayadu has had a good domestic record, that we cannot deny. He was somewhat of a child prodigy, destined for the stars. After joining the NCA in 2001, he began his domestic career with Hyderabad and was soon made captain of the Indian U-19 team and was even referred to as the next Tendulkar. But like all the others labelled with that title, he wasn’t able to live up to it.
In the year 2007, he got himself in the BCCI’s bad books by signing up for the rebel T-20 league,the ICL. He made amends with the BCCI in 2009 and was allowed to return to domestic cricket.
His domestic career has not been without problems. After a few good seasons with Hyderabad, in 2005, he got into disagreements with the Hyderabad Cricket Association, which caused him to shift to the Andhra team. However, after a disappointing season with them, he returned to Hyderabad. Here, he had a spat with the Arjun Yadav, Shivlal Yadav’s son. Following this, the first T20 experiment, the ICL, came knocking, and he left the domestic set-up for the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am way of life.
After his return to the mainframe of Indian cricket, he joined the Baroda team and returned to the form that brought him under the spotlight in the first place. He scored 566 at an average if 56.60, which was studded with a double hundred and three fifties. This wasn’t a one season wonder, and in the 2012-13 season he scored 666 runs at a phenomenal average of 60.54. This earned him a call up for the Rest of India team for the Irani Trophy, and he scored 51 and 156 in the match. His top-scoring knock of 78 was crucial to West Zone’s victory against North Zone in the Deodhar Cup final.
Rayadu had to sit on the sidelines while he saw many players he captained in the under-19 team like Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan and multiple others make it to the grandest stage of them all. He was on the fringes for a while – he made it to the 30 probables for the World T-20 in September 2012. In December, he was picked as the replacement for the once-again injured Manoj Tiwary, but an international cap still eluded him. In 2013, the selectors called him up as a replacement for an injured Dhoni. He was the go to safety net, but never the first choice.
Destiny was to have her way eventually; one just didn’t expect that it would take so long. He debuted against Zimbabwe. No, it wasn’t the grandest stage for a debut, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t hear him complaining. He came in at a point where India may not have been too worried, but given the team’s odd liking for random collapses, we weren’t exactly in the most comfortable position. He took his time to get going, but once he did, there was no stopping him. Kohli may have stolen the show as he has done many times before, but there was no denying that Rayadu had played a gem of an innings. No, he didn’t win the man-of-the-match award, but scoring the winning runs with a four on debut must have been pretty sweet as well.
He didn’t replicate the performance in the next two matches, but there is no denying that he will achieve his true potential. After all, we must remember that the Kohli we trust so much today took quite a while to get going himself. Will he be the next Tendulkar? Probably not. Will he be a good batsman? Definitely.