There may be no pictorial evidence of Indian cricketers Manoj Prabhakar and Maninder Singh’s on-field scuffle during a match in Delhi. The photograph of Rashid Latif (with a wicket) and Raman Lamba (with a raised bat) threatening one another during a Duleep Trophy match in Jamshedpur has acquired sepia tones.
Pakistan batsman Javed Miandad has also provided cricket history with one picture of his and threatening to beat Australian paceman Dennis Lillee with a raised bat. And, there are videos of Inzamam-ul-Haq jumping the advertisement hoarding and the fence to get into the galleries and thrashed a fan in Toronto for calling him “Aloo (potato)”.
In these days, when social media sparks outrage, Ambati Rayudu’s recent scuffle with an elder man by the roadside in Hyderabad will be among the most watched videos. The infamous incident involving singer Mika Singh and actor Rakhi Sawant may have lasted a few seconds but the video played in loops and got ingrained in many memories. Rayudu may have courted similar fate now.
That only a few are ready to even consider the possibility of Rayudu reacting to grave provocation in his latest brawl is a telling, if sad, comment on the cricketer’s reputation of being a tinder-box with a very short fuse. That cricket officials are unwilling to even suggest to him that he undergoes an anger-management exercise is a more telling comment about the times we are in.
Of course, it is hard to sit in judgement over Rayudu’s action in this specific instance – someone’s mother was angrily abused and it cannot be figured the author of such ill-tempered language was – but his reputation as an intemperate person precedes him, making it difficult for many to back him. Yet, it is a travesty that he never appears to have been the beneficiary of counselling.
More than a decade ago, he had a massive fall out with N Arjun Yadav, former India off-spinner Shivlal Yadav’s son. During a Ranji Trophy match between Andhra (for whom Rayudu was playing as an up and coming cricketer) and Hyderabad in Anantapur, he provoked Arjun Yadav enough for the then Hyderabad skipper to pull out a stump and attack him.
This came a couple of years after he fell foul of Hyderabad Cricket Association officials and chose to shift base to Andhra. It did not help his cricket but these incidents, and his decision to sign up for the Indian Cricket League only added layers to his image as a loose cannon who expressed his frustration through anger.
Many will also remember that he did not take a backward step when off-spinner Harbhajan Singh screamed his lungs off after he allowed a boundary to slip past him during an IPL match. For someone so talented – Greg Chappell named Rayudu as a player of the future when he was himself bidding to become Team India coach – he has given his fans few positive images to recall.
It transpires that he was able to leave the recent incident behind when he stepped on the field and led Hyderabad Cricket Association XI to victory in the Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup final. Yet, with the video doing the rounds of social media and then getting on to some TV channels, prompting newspapers and websites to slam his anger, it is possible that he has had the chance to reflect.
At 31, he has some time to show that he is no rolling stone, let alone a mercenary. But that journey can start by signing up for an anger management course. He has not been named as part of the HCA team in the Buchi Babu tournament in Chennai. Perhaps it will give him time again to reflect and seek some guidance.
Footballers have been known to get into scuffles with fans. Manchester United’s Eric Cantona kicked a hooligan for insulting him in 1995 and, earlier this year, when Paul Pogba refused to sign autographs and a couple of United fans were outraged enough to test his defensive skills. Why, did the great Zinedine Zidane not headbutt Marco Materazzi in the 2006 FIFA World Cup final?
Indeed, athletes are very human – and some like Rayudu more than others. It is perhaps unfair to expect the modern sportsperson to remain models of civil behaviour, especially in the face of abuse. Yet, since they would want their careers prolonged, it would help them if their clubs and associations, teams and friends do their bit in channelising their anger in the right direction.
When Liverpool striker Luis Suarez bit Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic was offered anger management treatment by the Professional Footballers Association. And he had admitted earlier that he needed to change. The moot question is: does Ambati Rayudu acknowledge his short fuse and the need to express his passion in a more socially acceptable manner?