The truth is, going into the Irani Trophy encounter, the 27-year-old wasn't even on top of the pecking order as far as candidates for the No.6 spot are concerned, with many others queued up ahead of him. But Rayudu did manage to give a fair account of the panache and grace that he possesses in his batting repertoire. Importantly, he also managed to get past that crucial three-figure mark, remaining unbeaten on 118 as Rest of India firmed their grip on the Irani Trophy at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday, sitting pretty with a lead of 413.
Despite his ton, Rayudu will still be a rank outsider when Sandeep Patil's national selection committee sits down to pick the squad for the Tests against Australia on Sunday. Selection issues aside, however, the stylish middle-order batsman produced a knock which as always was pleasing to the eye in what is his maiden Irani Trophy match.
The one aspect of Rayudu's cricket that has always attracted detractors has been his temperament, or lack of it when it comes to constructing a knock befitting the longer format. To his credit, he has learned to temper his belligerence in recent years, which has resulted in better consistency with the bat.
There are few batsmen in the domestic scene who punish loose deliveries with more relish than Rayudu. As the erratic Shardul Thakur found out on the fourth day of the match. The half-volleys were creamed through the covers while the short and wide ones were cut forcefully past the backward point fielder.
Feeding his strengths
The left-arm spin duo of Ankeet Chavan and Vishal Dabholkar, who had come under fire when they faced Rayudu in the Ranji quarterfinal at the same venue, did manage to keep him quiet with a tight line around middle-and-leg. Not for long though as he charged down the wicket soon and smashed Chavan over his head for six before repeating the act a few overs later.Javed Khan, like his burly pace partner, too was guilty of providing width to Rayudu often, and was meted out similar treatment. And the ROI right-hander soon brought up his 14th first-class ton with a fearsome cut off Thakur.
Rayudu also shared a 140-run stand with Manoj Tiwary, another prodigious talent who's never quite made the cut. The Bengal batsman though wasn't as dominant as his partner, and was kept in check by the medium-pace of Abhishek Nayar, especially his in-swingers. He only managed six runs off his first 46 deliveries before finding his feet and getting a move on. Tiwary though couldn't convert his 69 into something more meaningful, and if anything was overtaken by Rayudu in the pecking order.
Rayudu was later joined by Suresh Raina, who continued his good form in the match with another fine display of attack and defence, finishing unbeaten on 40. But not before Indian cricket's prodigal son provided another pleasing example of his new-found maturity.
Brief scores: RoI 526 & 296/4 in 95 overs (A Rayudu 118 batting, M Tiwary 69, S Raina 40 batting, D Kulkarni 1/31, S Thakur 1/25) vs Mumbai 409