India vs Zimbabwe: Understated Ambati Rayudu announces arrival

Skipper Virat Kohli praised Rayudu's sensible knock against Zimbabwe in the post-match ceremony and termed it a mature innings.

Updated: July 25, 2013 12:32 IST
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Harare: As Ambati Rayudu faced up to the press after India's six-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in the first One-Day International on Wednesday (July 24), he brought with him an unusual contradiction.

He sported a tattoo on his neck and carried the sort of history that suggested a bold contrarian lay beneath, yet when he was asked for his reaction to finally making his India debut after a long wait, Rayudu delivered his answer in a voice that was barely louder than a whisper. (Also read: Kohli ecstatic after his record ODI ton)

"It feels marvellous. I'm really excited. It's been pretty emotional and I'm really happy to be playing for India."

The small gathering, which had already been within cat-swinging distance, leaned in a little closer, straining to hear.

"I always had the belief that if I could get things right and get my mind right, then I would be able to make it into the team one day, and I'm really happy that I got my chance today."

Having just spoken to Sikandar Raza, who had been confident bordering on cocksure, it seemed odd to those present in the room that this talented Indian batsman who had begun his international career in style was so softly-spoken in front of such a gentle inquiry.

It seemed stranger yet when you looked at Rayudu's history - an India Under-19 captain who fell off the radar for several years, popping up only in reference to disciplinary issues with coaches and umpires before joining the Indian Cricket League in 2007. Surely, this guy would be a bit of a punk?

Apparently not. Having accepted the BCCI's amnesty offer in 2009 to take up a contract with Mumbai Indians, a more unassuming character seems to have developed. Rayudu paid tribute to the impact the Mumbai set-up has had on him as he's worked his way towards being the international cricketer that many expected from such a bright young talent.

Asked whether it was the Indian Premier League, or anyone specifically, that had helped him, he replied: "My family, my friends and especially the Mumbai Indians support staff. Sachin (Tendulkar) and Robin Singh especially. They've helped me a lot, and I'd definitely like to thank them for that."

Having been content to play second fiddle to Virat Kohli in a 159-run partnership that put the result of the first ODI beyond doubt, he was more effusive about the benefits of batting alongside his captain.

"I think he's playing the best cricket possible," Rayudu said of Kohli. "I definitely feel that he's the best in the world right now in the one-day format. He made it a lot easier for me, and I was just looking at the way he was constructing his innings - it's a very good learning experience."

Although Rayudu, 27, described the Zimbabwean bowlers as "pretty good", in truth he could hardly have asked for a friendlier introduction to the international game. Time will tell whether he turns out to be the outwardly bold character his earlier years suggested, the quietly confident one that saw India to victory on Wednesday, or something combining the best qualities of both.

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