Ambati Rayudu (Image courtesy: Getty)
Ambati Rayudu (Image courtesy: Getty)

Ambati Rayudu, born September 23, 1985, was once hailed as one of the brightest batting talents in India. A number of off-field issues prevented him from achieving the greatness he seemed destined for, but Rayudu has since become a dependable ODI batsman for India. On his 32nd birthday, Shiamak Unwalla looks at 10 interesting things to know about the man who ought to have made it big years before he did.

1. Under-19 heroics

Rayudu’s obvious talent was on display very early in his cricketing days. Opening batting for India Colts against England under-19 in 2002, the then 16-year-old Rayudu hammered a monumental unbeaten 177 out of India’s total of 262 as India won by one wicket

2. Captaining future internationals

India’s under-19 World Cup squad of 2004 had quite a few future international cricketers such as Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, Dinesh Karthik, RP Singh, and Shikhar Dhawan. But it was Rayudu who was named captain of the team. Ironically, he was the last of that batch to make his international debut for India.

3. Fiery temper

For such a diminutive man, Rayudu has a terrible temper. His temperamental tendencies came to the fore early in his career. He had trouble with then-Hyderabad coach Rajesh Yadav, due to which he shifted to Andhra. Then in 2005 he was involved in an ugly on-field spat with ex cricketer Shivlal Yadav’s son Arjun. It got so bad that Arjun attacked Rayudu with a stump. In addition, Rayudu has got into a few confrontations with umpires over the years as well.

4. Fiery temper 2

Rayadu was involved in an ugly spat with Harbhajan Singh in IPL 9. It seemed that the Mumbai Indians (MI) teammates will go on to exchange blows when the senior Harbhajan controlled himself and handled things well. However, Rayudu was not at all happy. During a match against Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS), Rayadu misfielded a shot from Saurabh Tiwary at the boundary off Harbhajan s bowling. The off-spinner was livid and said some unpleasant words to add to Rayadu s fury. A year on, Tiwary found himself playing for MI with Rayudu and received abuses from the cricketer for poor running between the wickets and poor throwing.

Less than a month before he turned 32, he got into a heated argument with some morning walking senior citizens, who alleged Rayudu was rash driving. Rayudu abused and manhandled a senior citizen before getting back in his car again. Rayudu was severely criticised for the same. Even Harsh Goenka tweeted against him

5. Bits and pieces man

In addition to his batting, Rayudu is also a part-time off-spinner (though his action is perhaps not as legal as it should be) and part-time wicketkeeper. His ‘keeping is good enough that he has played as a frontline wicketkeeper for Mumbai Indians (MI) in IPL.

6. State tourist

Rayudu started his First-Class career playing for Hyderabad before switching to Andhra. On his return from ICL, he started playing for Baroda.

7. ICL stint

Rayudu was one of the biggest players in the ICL, where he played for Hyderabad Heroes and ICL India XI. He availed of the BCCI amnesty in 2009, following which he was picked up by MI.

8. Last-ball hero

Playing for MI in IPL helped Rayudu in a big way to get on track to playing international cricket. He played a number of crucial innings batting everywhere from No. 3 to No. 8 in the line-up. One such instance came in the 70th match of IPL 2011. Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) scored 175 for 7 and managed to restrict MI to 137 for 5 in the 18th over. With 38 runs needed to win from 15 balls, Rayudu and James Franklin took the game into the final over. With 21 needed to win off Lakshmipathy Balaji’s over, Franklin hit four boundaries off the first four balls before taking a single. Rayudu needed four off the final ball to win, and responded by swatting a full toss over midwicket for six as MI won off the final ball of the match.

9. Impressive on ODI debut

Having waited over a decade since his First-Class debut to play for India, Rayudu finally got his ODI debut against Zimbabwe. Playing for a depleted side under Virat Kohli, Rayudu responded by scoring an unbeaten 63 to help India chase down Zimbabwe’s 228 for 7. Rayudu’s fifty was only the 12th instance of an Indian scoring a half-century on ODI debut.

10. Excellent ODI record

Rayudu is yet to tie down his slot in India’s ODI XI despite having a wonderful record. In the 34 ODIs he has played (at the time of writing) he has scored 1,055 runs at 50.23 with two centuries and six fifties.

11. Biryani

In a bizarre twist, Rayudu is alleged to have caused MS Dhoni and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to storm out of a Hyderabad hotel in 2014. To be clearer, Rayudu had prepared home-cooked biryani for Dhoni and co. but the staff at the hotel CSK were staying at did not allow the consumption of outside food. This caused Dhoni to lose his temper (for once!) and cause his entire team to pack out of the hotel to a more accommodating one. Though the story is not officially vouched for either by the players or the hotel staff, it is understood that Rayudu’s biryani was the trigger for the entire incident!

12. Back for Hyderabad, and burying hatchet with Arjun

In 2017, Rayudu returned to Hyderabad as their Ranji captain. As luck would have it, Arjun is the coach of the side. The duo called truce. That is past. It is fantastic to be back with Hyderabad team. Let us look for what is good for the team now. There is tremendous talent and our objective is to win the Ranji Trophy this season, Rayudu told The Hindu.

He also wanted Arjun to continue as coach. Arjun-bhai is a great source of strength. In fact, both of us have seen the highs and lows of Hyderabad cricket in the last few years. So, we are determined to script a new chapter. Though the HCA top brass will make a final call (if Arjun will remain the coach), I think the team will benefit immensely from his experience. He brings in the kind of experience from which even I can learn. I believe the team benefits a lot from his presence, especially the young players. We were young then (at the time of brawl). Past is past; we re more mature and responsible now. And it s time to think of what is good for Hyderabad cricket.

(Shiamak Unwalla is a proud Whovian and all-round geek who also dabbles in cricket writing as a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)