After a roller-coaster ride

GET­TING THERE After fail­ing to cash in on his tal­ent early on due to wrong choices, Rayudu is fi­nally find­ing his feet

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - SPORT - Firoz Mirza ■ sports­desk@hin­dus­tan­times.com

When lo­cal boy Axar Pa­tel came on to bowl at the Motera Sta­dium, Ahmed­abad on Thurs­day, and the cam­era zoomed in on his beam­ing par­ents seated in the VIP box. The ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion helped the 20-year-old left-arm pro­duce the best among In­dia’s spin trio in the eleven.

That won’t be the case when Am­bati Rayudu, fresh from his bril­liant maiden cen­tury in the sec­ond one-dayer against Sri Lanka, takes the field for his first match at the Ra­jiv Gandhi In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium in Hy­der­abad, his orig­i­nal home ground, on Sun­day.

In­stead of cheer­ing their son from the stands, fa­ther Sam­ba­siva Rao and mother Vi­jay­alak­shmi will be away, of­fer­ing prayers in the tem­ples of Madu­rai. “We made the plan a fort­night ago. Right now we are in Kanyaku­mari and will be in Madu­rai on match day. But we will try to watch him play on tele­vi­sion,” Rao told HT. TOO ANX­IOUS

This has been the story ever since Rayudu started ex­celling in crick­et­ing. Rao avoids go­ing to watch his son play as he gets tense. “It re­ally gets tense so I avoid it. It’s bet­ter to en­joy the match on tele­vi­sion,” he said.

Touted as a bright fu­ture In­dia prospect a decade ago, Rayudu missed the early chance. Is­sues with fel­low crick­eters in Hy­der­abad forced him to move to Andhra. If leav­ing a prom­i­nent team wasn’t enough, he sur­prised ev­ery­one when he joined the rebel In­dian Cricket League (ICL), cast­ing se­ri­ous doubts over his fu­ture.

Luck­ily, age was on his side. He re­turned to the of­fi­cial fold by seek­ing amnesty from the cricket Board in 2009. How­ever, by then much had changed with his un­der-19 team­mates Suresh Raina, Di­nesh Karthik and Irfan Pathan hav­ing pushed far ahead. CHANG­ING FOR­TUNES

The tur ning point came in 2010 when the Mumbai In­di­ans of­fered a con­tract and he was able to ben­e­fit from the guid­ance pro­vided by Sachin Ten­dulkar. Hav­ing now shifted to Bar­oda from Andhra for more ex­po­sure, his good per­for­mances did the trick as he was back in the lime­light, forc­ing even his de­trac­tors to ac­knowl­edge.

“He was young and tem­per­a­men­tal, but now he has trans­formed com­pletely. I think ad­ver­si­ties changed him en­tirely. He has gained the ex­pe­ri­ence to tackle tough sit­u­a­tions,” said his fa­ther.

Coach Vi­jay Paul, who shaped Rayudu’s early ca­reer, agreed.

“He is an at­tack­ing player by na­ture. He likes to play strokes and counts a lot on hand-eye co­or­di­na­tion. But in the last three-four years he has learnt to con­trol his ag­gres­sion. He has played at dif­fer­ent po­si­tions and now un­der­stands the im­por­tance of his wicket,” Paul added.

Rayudu’s coach though will not miss out on Sun­day. “A tour­na­ment is on and my team will be play­ing that day but I will surely go and watch him in In­dia colours.”

Life has come full cir­cle for Rayudu.

PTI PHOTO

It has taken Am­bati Rayudu a very long time to come into his own.

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