For Ambati Rayudu the Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup starting from Thursday gives a different feel this time around.
This 23-year-old gifted batsman will be representing his State for the first time at home (he has already played for HCA in the KSCA and the Buchi Babu events outside Hyderabad) after coming back from the rebel Indian Cricket League fold.
And, he is excited about the prospect. “There is no better feeling than to play for the State in front of your home crowd to prove a point or two,” says Rayudu.
“What happened is past and my focus right now is on how to make optimum use of the chances to push myself back into national reckoning,” he asserted in a chat with The Hindu after a strenuous practice schedule, closely monitored by his coach and former Test star S.L. Venkatapathi Raju.
For obvious reasons, among all the ICL cricketers who are back in the official fold, Rayudu merits the most attention given his immense talent. What is significant is the fact that he is determined to re-discover his wonted touch which saw him bat like a champion on the 2002 tour to England with the India under-19 team when he scored a blazing 177.
“Yes, that was a great tour. And I am aware that for reasons beyond my control, things drifted away later, to a seemingly hopeless situation,” he recalls.
Rayudu says that the ICL experience too helped him grow in confidence and gave him exposure. He played with and against some of the big names like Inzamam-ul-Haq and Abdul Razzaq. He also thanks Hyderabad Heroes coach Steve Rixon who was simply superb he says. “It (ICL) had its own pluses and minuses. Anyhow, I can vouch that I am completely transformed cricketer now,” he points out, clearly enjoying the chemistry with his teammates.
He began in right earnest in his very first ‘comeback’ season this year with two centuries and narrowly missed a third one by just three runs in the two major events — the KSCA and the Buchi Babu tournaments wherein he played for Hyderabad.
“Honestly, to start with I was definitely nervous and excited too at playing for my State team again. But one thing which I can assure you is that I will never throw my wicket away. Not that I will not play strokes, but stroke selection will be the key to my approach. My desire is to make it big at the national level,” he says with a big smile.
For quite a long time, Rayudu had given an impression of not really having the right attitude and the cricketing discipline and because of that he could not make it big when he was expected to do so. But he says he has changed now.
“You will see for yourself what sort of cricketer I am right now. I am aware that only performances matter and I will not be found wanting in commitment,” says Rayudu who is a treat to watch when on song.
There is no doubt that Rayudu will be a perfect fit for the high-profile Indian Premier League both for his batting and brilliant fielding. Already, he is on the radar of the Kolkata Knight Riders but he is keeping his options open right now. He prefers to let his bat do the talking this season, so that he can be in a better position to decide later.
“The IPL is too far away to think about right now. If I keep scoring runs, I am confident that I will be getting these offers. But right now, the focus is to score runs and all other issues are secondary,” he said before joining his teammates.