Hyderabad: Ambati Rayudu left Hyderabad seven seasons ago and he makes a comeback of sorts this year. Naturally, there is a palpable excitement and nervousness. Nevertheless, the 31-year-old flamboyant batsman is all set to don the role of a captain for Hyderabad in the new season.
“I always feel proud to wear Hyderabad colours. Actually, it is a dream come true to lead Hyderabad. I love challenges. More than responsibilities, there is a sense of pride as a lot of great players have led this great side. I’m sure all the boys are aware of the value of wearing this shirt,’’ said Rayudu, two days ahead of the Hyderabad’s opening Group A match against Maharashtra, to be played at Gymkhana from October 6.
He said he is very excited to be back in Hyderabad. “We have a good side. We won two tournaments — Moin-ud-Dowla and Buchi Babu — before the start of the new season. You can’t ask for a better start. But the first match will always be little tense. I’m sure, once the first day’s play gets over, the players will be more relaxed.’’
Saying that he is always an aggressive batsman, he insists he will always remain the same. “Of course, there is a little more maturity in batting. I will bat according to situations. I’m sure I will be successful if I play my natural game. I’m thinking to bat at number four. Of course it has not yet been decided and in the best interest of the team, I would bat where I could fit in.’’
Rayudu, who has played 34 ODIs, clearly stated that he is very much in the reckoning for India. “I have been out of the Indian team because of injuries more than anything else. I have never been out of the Indian team for bad performances. My one-day career is very good and it is that I have to make selectors know that I’m fit for the level that they want me to play. Last year, I was struggling with knee injury. I’m raring to go. Hopefully, I would get runs in a big way.’’
The swashbuckling batsman, who played for Baroda and Vidarbha in the last seven seasons, said he has never seen any Hyderabad team as talented as this one. “This is a side where many players can dream to play for the country. The amount of talent is amazing. The fast bowlers are very exciting. All three or four of them bowling at 140 km is something that any other team cannot boast of.”
The skipper said the batting is strong this time. “I think in the past the batsmen were under some sort of pressure. They never batted freely and so this time, we have focused to bat positively. I’m sure these batsmen will be getting runs. I see Akshath, Tanmay, Sumnath, Sandeep and Ashish (Reddy) getting the runs with comfort. I can say confidently that we have got a formidable batting line-up in the country.’’
What is making Rayudu excited is the pace unit of Hyderabad. “Honestly, Siraj, Milind or Ravi Kiran are as good as any bowlers in the country now. I would say that without any hesitation. These guys have pace, control and can swing both ways. They are good with old ball too. Not only these three bowlers, I feel (Sudeep) Tyagi is bowling with good pace. We have a luxury of fast bowler and good spinners in Pragyan Ojha, Amol Shinde, Akash Bhandari and Mehdi Hasan.’’
Rayudu said the team has a pool of players where selecting the eleven will be a big headache to the team management. “It will be really tough and it has never been the case of the Hyderabad team in the recent past. I’m very happy this is the situation where we are in. I’m sure it will only take us forward.’’
The skipper said they are prepared and ready for the challenge. “I’m sure results will follow us as long as we keep remain focused and be positive. We have worked for the new season. There is new bonhomie in the team. There is a sense of self-belief, freedom and positivity in the team. I feel the freedom was lacking in Hyderabad. We always doubted our ability but this team has the belief that they are as good as any team in the country. ‘’
Rayudu was all praise for the new coach J Arunkumar. “Arunkumar won the Ranji Trophy twice for Karnataka. If he was not a good coach, he could not have got this result. His mindset is very good and the players are very comfortable with him.’’
As a parting shot, Rayudu said: “I’m fortunate to win a lot of tournaments at various stages of my career. Winning for Hyderabad is my biggest dream. I wouldn’t say that we are the best side in the country but what I can say is we are a team that is on the rise. I’m sure it is good times to come. Hopefully, it will be our season.”