When the selectors, coach and the captain chose the squad for the ODI World Cup, they officially named Ambati Rayudu in the reserves. He was the best specialist batsman in the country after Dhawan, Sharma, Kohli and Rahul, they reckoned. That Mayank Agarwal replaced Shankar in the squad stinks of nepotism as no cricketing reason was given for arbitrarily discarding the official reserve.
The COA and professional CEO watched silently!
I was a victim too
Rayudu and I are similar in many ways. I hold the distinct record of being the youngest cricketer in India to have got an international hundred playing for South Zone and not play a Test.
My other record was an unthinkable one for HCA, a resounding slap that echoed in every corner of Hyderabad — I hadn’t played for Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy, yet I had played against the West Indies for South Zone. It was a clear indication that the state cricket administration had failed its talent.
Such hits have dire consequences for budding careers. Knives were sharpened. How could I do that to them? I must be humbled. To add salt to injury, I had attitude. I wasn’t rude nor was I not a team man. I loved cricket and had an attitude, which made me the cricketer I was.
Many years later when M.A.K. Pataudi, was asked about me not playing for India he quipped, ‘Players lesser than him have played for the country’. I was not willing to lick the feet of those that mattered. There was no doubt that I was different.
Like me Rayudu is different too. He is a loner who wanted to control his own destiny. Instead of trying to appreciate him as a cricketer, understand his perspective, help him become an integral part of the Indian side, the system in both Hyderabad and Andhra worked overtime to ensure a quick closure. Rayudu left for Baroda. Indian cricket suffered.
An ego battle
Players lesser than Rayudu have certainly played in his place whilst he languished moving from state to state. Had the country come first and not the egos of those in power, suppressed talents like Rayudu would have flourished. To lose the likes of Ambati because the selectors could not handle his attitude is sad for Indian cricket. To expect Rayudu to suck-up to people to earn his place was expecting a lot from this proud boy from the south. Demeaning him, high handedness on the part of state cricket associations and their selectors, lack of transparency, zero answerability and nepotism ensured that a fantastic talent drifted away. I can expect that from the high-handed administration of old, where one would not question his departure from Hyderabad or Andhra but why is the new setup quiet? Why aren’t they asking for answers, trying to find a way to prevent this from happening to fresh talent in India?
When Rayudu played in the ICL the monopoly of the BCCI was threatened. When he tweeted about 3D glasses, the selectors must have taken umbrage forgetting that even we hurt and at times need our arrogance to help us through the humiliation of being dropped. Those like Rayudu have earned their attitude and wear it on their sleeve. Many in power because of their ego, confused this for insolence and hurt the gifted player, especially when and where it matters the most. Sadly, those that hurt him most were former cricketers themselves.
A misfit or a gift?
Rayudu had an air of defiance, an attribute needed on the field as a batsman yet seen as non-conformist and rebellious by the administration. While he continued to perform on the field, those in charge of cricket labelled him a misfit. His Mumbai Indian sojourn and explosive batting consistency won him accolades while exposing each state that had tried to relegate him. Baroda has always been a city of joy for cricketers and it is here that he found solace and represented his country as a Baroda man. It was yet another slap on the face of associations like Hyderabad and Andhra that had driven him out with nothing short of vengeance.
Through all this the BCCI just sat back and saw a brilliant cricketer being torn to shreds. They would rather back those that voted them to power than the cricketers that made the game so very special. The 2019 selection of the WC squad and the way he was treated by the selectors was the final straw. These selectors will never be able to hold their own on the sheer dint of their individual performances in international cricket. If the BCCI with its Supreme Court appointed checks and balances does not send in the ACU to investigate the transparency and fairness in national selection it will allow the selectors to yet again become proxies and pawns of those that pull the strings. Any process of selection gets compromised the moment corruption or ego interferes with it. This would not be a problem if the team was a BCCI Club team but it becomes a huge bone of contention when the team represents India. The selection process of Team India must be transparent and made answerable to a billion fans. Rayudu hung up his boots and walked out in disgust. India lost another great player to a system that remains monopolistic.
Will the CoA enquire why such a senior cricketer was abused? Or is that asking for too much?...