HYDERABAD: “A year in a sportsman’s life,” Geoffrey Boycott once remarked while on commentary, “is an eternity.” The latest in a plethora of sportsmen to re-emphasise this truism is Ambati Rayudu, who called quits to his international career.
While the trigger for the sudden retirement is seemingly hiding in plain sight — bypassing a standby to opt for somebody who has played zero ODIs is a hard one to stomach — the 33-year-old’s career kept swinging from one side to the other like it was being controlled by a remote.
One moment, Virat Kohli had just anointed him as India’s No 4. The next, he was ostracised by CSK fans, and the wider Indian public, who had paid money to watch him bat, just a few days earlier. One moment, he had the moniker of ‘Indian cricket’s next big thing’ attached to him. The next, he had another one. ‘Indian cricket’s problem child’.
From playing in the now defunct Indian Cricket League (ICL) to picking up fights with all and sundry before staging a grand comeback to the national team in September 2018 after battling injuries and failing at least one yo-yo test, the Hyderabad lad came, saw, conquered before being asked to do the same again and again and again.
However, the perception of Rayudu as someone who is argumentative and likes to pick fights is unfair. Sure, that YouTube video of him arguing with a senior citizen isn’t a good look. But — there is always a but in this context — he was a man who had a large heart and didn’t think twice when it came to spending money for the team’s cause. One only needed to listen to upcoming player T Ravi Teja, who narrated an incident to show the kind of bonding he had developed with the bunch of Hyderabad players.
“When he came back to Hyderabad, he got so close to us that he bought bats worth Rs 50,000 each for all the 15 members of the squad. His tips were so fruitful whenever we played under him. For each win, he used to throw a party, and was really friendly with us off the field. I am really sad to know that he will not be with us this season,” Teja said.
That he hasn’t consulted senior pros before taking this decision is evident. Akshath Reddy was in shock while conveying his initial feelings. “We are all really surprised. Whenever he has been with the team, he has always been thinking about how to help the youngsters in the team. He spoke with everyone equally,” Reddy said.
Even though that fateful tweet — still his last one posted on the social media — ultimately contributed to his downfall, he did not hold a grudge in his resignation letter, which was addressed to acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary, general manager (cricket operations) Saba Karim and CEO Rahul Johri. He also emailed Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA), apprising the state body of the decision. “Respected sir, I would like to bring to your kind notice that I have come to decision to step away from the sport and retire from all forms and levels of the game...,” an excerpt from the letter said.
He also thanked the captains he has played under. “It has been a honour and privilege to have represented our country. I would like to thank the captains I have played under: MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and especially Virat Kohli who always showed great belief in me throughout my career with the Indian team...”
But a part of that last line, he will know deep down, isn’t true.