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The Rediff Cricket Interview
/ Ambati T Rayudu
'As a cricketer, I'm really tough'
June 26, 2003
Ambati Thirupathi Rayudu is one of the most talked about young cricketers in India today. Dark, short-statured, and with a bowling action similar to that of Sri Lanka off-spinner Muthiah Muralitharan, the 18 year old from Andhra Pradesh is one confident bloke.
"It's not such a bad thing," he says. "I bowl pretty well. Many people don't believe so, but I think I do," he says.
But it is not his bowling that has pitched Rayudu into the limelight. The youngster came into the reckoning with his fantastic displays with the bat in the under-19 one-day series against England, last year, which the Indians won 3-0. As an opener, he scored an unbeaten 177 in the last one-dayer to pull off a sensational victory at Taunton. Set to score 304, the Hyderabad lad singlehandedly took India to victory after the side had been reduced to 137 for 6.
Last November, Rayudu scored 210 off 232 balls with four sixes and 26 fours for Hyderabad against Andhra Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy. An unbeaten 159 followed in the second innings and he had pressed his claim for a berth in the India senior team. The second innings 161-ball knock contained 17 boundaries and five sixes.
Rayudu was actually pushed by his father, who enrolled him in a coaching camp at the age of eight, to take up the sport.
"My father has been an inspirational force," says the youngster. "He was not a cricketer, but he was very interested in the sport."
After a strenuous 18-day camp in Bangalore, Rayudu is off with the India 'A' team, once again to England, for a 45-day tour. He spoke to Faisal Shariff at the camp.
How is the camp?
It has been really good. I really like this one because they are allowing us to do our individual thing. They are not really pushing us, what to do and what not to do. The other day I went indoors and caught up with my technique in front of the bowling machine for one hour. If there was any other coach he would have just called me to stand there and told me to bowl and bat in the nets. It is really good they are allowing us to improve on our own. I wasn't getting something right, so I just thought of going and getting it sorted out.
How has it been working with John Wright? He has been talking a lot to you, I have noticed.
He gives a lot of confidence. He never talks anything negative. That is really good; he makes you feel that you can do it. That is part of the talk he gives... pep talk. Even [India 'A' team coach Sandeep] Patil. They are really intelligent people, really good to be under.
You are known as a tough cricketer, not scared of anyone. Was it your stint in Australia at the age of 14 that toughened you up?
It is not actually because of Brisbane. I have always been mentally tough. In the camp in Australia, I learnt about being on time and being really positive all the time. 'I will do it' is their attitude, not 'I could' or 'I can try'. This is the kind of attitude that I learnt from them; it really pushes you to do it. I think that camp taught me to always give everything a try.
There was one coach, Derek Miller. He was the main person out there and there were a few first-class cricketers.
Whom did you idolise? Who have you modelled your batting on?
I didn't model my batting on anyone. I just look up to Sachin [Tendulkar], [V V S] Laxman and Steve Waugh. They are the people who inspired me with the way they play, especially Steve Waugh, because of his strength.
What are your earliest memories of watching international cricket?
My first memory of watching international cricket was the Hero Cup, in 1993. I don't remember whether I watched it live, but that was the first thing I watched.
What do you think is your strength as a batsman?
I tend to dominate the bowling; as a cricketer, I am really tough.
Does your short stature cause any problem while facing the rising ball?
I am not really scared of getting hit, so it doesn't really matter. Even if I get hit ten times, I just take it as another ball, like I have to go out there to get runs for the team. I don't believe in the way I get runs; I just have to get runs for the team. That is what matters to me.
Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, who started very early, was a burn-out. Does starting out early worry you?
No, I don't worry about all this; I don't even think about all this. I always look at my world ahead of me; I don't worry about what has happened. I don't even read newspapers, for instance. For me, if one game is finished, I look at the other game. I don't even bother looking back; I don't take anything into me.
You have already played in England. This is probably your third visit to England. You must be quite used to the conditions out there. Can you tell me more about the last time you played there?
The last time I played there was really good. Initially, in the 'Tests', what happened was that we were going and we didn't know how the conditions really were. The last time I went -- that was two years back -- I didn't bother to really look at the conditions. In the Under-19 team when we went [last year], we were playing four-day matches, we thought we could play all our shots. So we were making silly mistakes, getting out, cover-driving a wide ball. So I think this time we are more prepared. Even last time we went halfway through [before] we realised that we were not really putting ourselves into the game. Afterwards the results came as we started to think. This time from the start, I think, I am really prepared for it and doing well.
The fact that you were dropped from the final 'Test', was that the kick you needed? Because after that you fared very well in the one-dayers.
No, it was not a kick. [It's not] that I was just fooling around. I was just not concentrating enough, not really focused enough to get runs, I thought that it would come at any moment. I was confident, but not focused. That was the problem. Afterwards I started to think about cricket more than I used to and that really helped me.
Your innings of 177 got you in the reckoning. Everyone started to take notice. Can you take me through that innings?
It was a really special one for me. I had never played anything before like this. I made myself believe that I could do much more. Now I have got more confidence and I know that I can do a lot better. Initially I always dreamt of winning matches for my team, but when I really did that I [began to] believe that I could do it every time.
Have you had any interaction with V V S Laxman?
Laxman and I always interact because we have played together in the Ranji Trophy. He is really a man to look up to; he is very inspirational. One more person who has helped me is [former India Test and one-day player] Roger Binny who made me mentally tough. He showed me what cricket was. I liked to fool around and he taught me when to be serious and when to fool around. On the field he showed me how to prepare mentally for the match, how to give your best.
Are you aiming to go to Australia with the India senior team?
I just want to finish the England tour. It is in the hands of the selectors. My job is to just go out there and do well.
Do you believe that Under-15 and Under-17 guys should not be playing one-day cricket?
I don't know, because I have played a lot of one-day cricket. You can't really stop playing one-day cricket, because in one-day cricket a person starts to win games for his side and really gets joy and confidence. In one-day cricket, what actually happens is that 99 per cent of the time you are there for the team, so your individual interest doesn't come at all. There is no draw in one-day games and so you have to go for it.
Maybe from the technical point of view it affects the game, because you try to play all fancy shots and then, when you go to play a three-day match, it is different. Even the spinners, they try to bowl a lot flat in one-dayers, and in three days if they bowl flat I don't think they will get wickets, so that is the problem.