Ambati Rayudu has been signed up by Baroda as a professional for the upcoming domestic season. The decks were cleared after Rayudu was given a no-objection certificate from the Andhra Cricket Association. Rayudu is available to play all formats, though in recent years, he has mostly made himself available for white-ball cricket. He last played a first-class game in November 2017.
Rayudu has travelled a fair bit in domestic cricket in recent times, having represented Hyderabad and Andhra and Vidarbha, apart from a two-year stint with Baroda from 2012 to 2014. He will return to Baroda now to shore up the batting department, even as efforts are being made to convince Deepak Hooda to return too.
Hooda, the India allrounder, left Baroda in late 2020 after a fallout with then captain Krunal Pandya. Hooda spent a successful season with Rajasthan after that, which culminated in his India call-up. Since February this year, he has been a regular member of India’s white-ball squads. He also had a breakthrough IPL season with Lucknow Super Giants, where he teamed up with Krunal.
“As far as I know, they get along as well as they did earlier,” Shishir Hattangadi, the Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) chief executive, told ESPNcricinfo. “They have cleared their differences. They played and excelled together for the same IPL team. They have sorted whatever issues they have.
“While we are hopeful of Hooda’s return, we can’t say for sure, because from a cricketing perspective, it was Rajasthan who opened their doors for him when he needed a team. From our side, we’re making an effort. We’ll have to wait for a final call.”
The BCA has also roped in Yusuf Pathan as mentor on a one-year term to begin with, which he has provisionally accepted subject to certain terms and conditions. Yusuf’s role encompasses the wider spectrum of cricket – age-group and senior men and women. He is expected to be actively involved in camps and scouting in the build-up to the season.
“Baroda is a small unit, and the idea is to have someone of Yusuf’s stature to help nurture the talent coming through,” Hattangadi said. “We’ve seen players don’t lack ability, it’s their confidence level and mental make-up that needs tweaks. We thought Yusuf would be a perfect fit.”
Arun Lal steps down as Bengal head coach
Arun Lal has resigned as head coach of the Bengal senior men’s team after three seasons in charge. He cited the “taxing” nature of the job as the primary reason for his exit.
“It’s a very tough job. Nine months, 24×7, and almost seven months on the road. So I thought it was time to stop, before being kicked out,” 66-year-old Lal said with a laugh. “And Bengal have been doing well, they are on the right track.”
While Lal has enjoyed the full support of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) during his tenure, there have occasionally been rumblings among the players of his “old-school ways”. Bengal did, however, turn into a formidable force under his watch.
Lal, a Ranji Trophy winner with Bengal in the 1989-90 season – and twice with Delhi before that – joined the team as a mentor ahead of the 2018-19 season, and took over as head coach the following season. Under him, Bengal finished runners-up to Saurashtra in 2019-20 Ranji Trophy, and reached the semi-finals this year, where they lost to eventual champions Madhya Pradesh.
“The competition has become much tougher,” he said. “Last year’s winners did not qualify for the semi-finals this year. The finalists this year did not make the semi-finals last year. Only Bengal made the knockouts both seasons. So, they are in a good place.
“This is a fantastic performance by Bengal, and I have enjoyed myself thoroughly. And I will miss it. It’s very taxing. But I need to give myself time, and I have interests outside cricket too. The only thing we don’t have is a trophy, but I am sure we are headed there.”
The CAB is yet to make an announcement on their coaching roster. Saurasish Lahiri, the former Bengal offspinner, is currently assistant coach, while Joydeep Mukherjee is the director of cricket.