The IPL gave him a new lease of life and Ambati Rayudu proved his worth

Not often does one come across parents of a truly brilliant cricketer who are not watching their son excel on the field. But that is what Sambasiva Rao and Vijayalakshmi, parents of Ambati Rayudu do generally. Not even the high-profile Indian Premier League final made them change their sentiments. ?My son is known for his innovative stroke-play and I really get tense when he goes for big hits. So I prefer to not watch his batting ?live',? says Rao. He also has another valid reason. ?We almost thought his cricket career has come to an end after the ICL, but thank God for the BCCI and HCA, Rayudu got a rebirth in the game,? the proud father says.

When the IPL-3 final was on, Rayudu was clearly the focal point for many cricket lovers from Hyderabad. A platform such as IPL could have never been visualised a few months ago. And Rayudu did show glimpses of his prowess with some classy strokes before sacrificing his wicket to the big-hitting Kieron Pollard when Mumbai Indians were in a spot chasing the victory target. Even this gesture by Rayudu was another gentle reminder of how much he has changed as a cricketer.

For anyone who holds the bat or even enters the field, there can be no better feeling than rubbing shoulders with a genius like Sachin Tendulkar. In hindsight, it seemed to be the most appropriate decision for Rayudu to sign up with Mumbai Indians which gave him a fresh lease of life.

More importantly, Rayudu got a huge opportunity to showcase his talent in the most-watched IPL. His father recalls how Rayudu realised that this opportunity would remind many of his batting prowess and enhance his chances of being picked for the national team. He scored 356 runs from 14 games with two fifties, holding his own in a line-up which included the likes of Jayasuriya, Duminy, Pollard, Bravo.

He scored more than Dhoni (287 from 13 games) and Mathew Hayden (346 ?16 games) in this IPL. That Rayudu was the third highest run-getter for Mumbai Indians after Sachin Tendulkar (the leading scorer in the IPL with 618 from 15 games) and Saurav Tiwari (419 from 16 games) was in a way repaying the faith and confidence Tendulkar had in him.

Rayudu also proved the adage right once again ? class is permanent, form is temporary. His wicket-keeping (he never did that before) was a revelation even to his parents. ?Initially, Rayudu told us that he was nervous but slowly gained in confidence,? says the proud father. Interestingly, Rayudu remarked that he was ?fielding' more than keeping behind the stumps and thanks to fielding coach Jonty Rhodes he could pick up invaluable points to be a better keeper. One of the most memorable sights of the IPL was when he brilliantly stumped Kevin Pietersen of Royal Challengers off Harbhajan Singh's bowling. ?I knew he was going to bowl widish length and I was just hoping for a stumping chance,? he recalls proudly.

Rayudu won accolades from the likes of Tendulkar, Gavaskar, Zaheer and Harbhajan and this should boost his confidence level. The onus is on Rayudu now to show consistence in the days to come.

Keywords: cricketIPL