After being ignored for the World Cup, the 33-year old had announced his retirement from “all forms and levels” of cricket. He was named among the stand-bys for the tournament, but despite injuries to opener Shikhar Dhawan and the designated No. 4 Vijay Shankar, Rayudu was ignored again. Instead, the selectors and the management picked Pant and Mayank Agarwal as their replacements.
Earlier, in November 2018, Rayudu had retired from first-class cricket in a bid to focus on his limited-overs career, following a successful return to the India ODI set-up after injury troubles.
Soon after, ahead of the home series against West Indies, India captain Virat Kohli said Rayudu was the right person for the No. 4 position “because he’s experienced and he has won many games for his state and in IPL cricket. He has a great one-day record already for India, so I think the batting order is sorted as far as we’re concerned.”
Rayudu responded with 217 runs in four innings against West Indies, including a match-winning hundred in Mumbai. Rayudu also impressed in the ODI series in New Zealand, finishing as the top run-getter, with 190 runs in five innings. However, in the subsequent ODI series at home against Australia in the lead-up to the World Cup, Rayudu struggled for form and laboured to 13,18,2 in the first three games before being left out.
Vijay, who caught the eye with bat and ball in that series, was eventually picked ahead of Rayudu for the World Cup. Rayudu’s immediate response was a cheeky tweet, referring to his “3D glasses”, which seemed to be a jibe at the selectors for ignoring him. He later told Telangana Today that being ignored for the World Cup was “shocking”.
“I had worked very hard to be ready for the World Cup. I quit red-ball cricket for the World Cup. I was extremely fit and doing the role, which the team asked me to do at No. 4 and suddenly when you are not in the team, it was shocking,” he said. “There was no communication from the team members also.”
Then, weeks ahead of the start of India’s domestic season, Rayudu pulled a U-turn on his retirement and stated that his top priority is now to “get runs for Hyderabad” in the Indian domestic circuit. Noel David, Hyderabad’s selector, welcomed him back, saying that Rayudu had “at least five years of cricket” left in him.
Rayudu said that he aimed to groom young players and ease pressure on them on his return.
“It is time there is a good ambience and there should be no pressure on the players,” he said. “The best team should be selected. I feel that the players are playing under pressure. The infighting in the association is not good for cricket. Sadly, I feel the Hyderabad colours are for sale and it is important the players should perform to earn a place in the team.”
Rayudu replaces Akshath Reddy as captain, with B Sandeep named as his deputy. The other Rayudu – Rohit – and fast bowler Mohammed Siraj also feature in the squad.
Hyderabad squad: Ambati Rayudu (capt), B Sandeep (vice-capt), P Akshath Reddy, Tanmay Agarwal, Thakur Tilak Verma, Rohit Rayudu, CV Milind, Mehdi Hasan, Saket Sai Ram, Mohammed Siraj, Mickl Jaiswal, J Mallikarjun (wk), Karthikeya Kak, T Ravi Teja and Ajay Dev Goud