Former India player turned veteran commentator Aakash Chopra has recalled his first meeting with veteran India batter Ambati Rayudu when the child prodigy was picked for India A’s 2003 tour to the West Indies. Rayudu recently announced his retirement from all forms of Indian cricket after playing 97 first-class matches, 55 ODIs and six T20Is but never got an opportunity to represent India in the longer format as well.
In a video shared on his YouTube channel, Aakash Chopra said: “Let me share a little anecdote about my first meeting with Ambati Rayudu. It was in 2003, it was India A’s tour to the West Indies. A small kid named Ambati Rayudu was picked there. He would have probably been 16 years old at that time. He was selected with the hope that he will be the next Sachin Tendulkar, that the boy is extremely talented. He is like the prodigy, that he could bat, fields extremely well and could bowl too.”
The former Indian opener also revealed that coach Ashok Malhotra was asked to take special care of the talented youngster as well. Rayudu scored 289 runs which came at an average of 26.27 in the six matches he played on that tour as well. He scored two fifties, with 84 being his top score.
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“Ashok Malhotra was our coach there and there were special directions to him from the selectors to take care of the kid because he is India’s future. VVS Laxman was the captain on the tour and he had seen the kid playing in Hyderabad. So he was impressed but when you are making the team you need to take all things into account,” Aakash Chopra further added. “Our team didn’t have a single off-spinner. It was an extremely interesting team selection. We had Murali Kartik as a left-arm spinner and Amit Mishra as a leg-spinner. In batting, we had Gautam Gambhir, Connor Williams, myself, VVS Laxman and Abhijit Kale. So Ambati Rayudu got a chance to play in such a team.”
However, Ambati Rayudu claimed seven wickets at a decent average of 27.28 in the 51.3 overs he bowled on the tour as well. He scalped only 10 wickets in the 97 first-class matches he played as well.
“The poor guy got to bat very low in the order and he was asked to bowl off-spin in between, which the poor guy was unable to do. He was sometimes pitching the ball on his own legs or the batters’ legs, full tosses at other times, and wicket-taking balls in between. I remember the short-leg and midwicket fielders used to be slightly scared whenever Ambati came to bowl because the West Indies guys used to hit very hard. So you were scared because you were in the firing line. I used to be at short leg, so I used to ask him not to bowl short,” Aakash Chopra concluded.