2nd Feb, 2024

Ambati Rayudu exclusive: “At MI, winning was everything. We called it the MI Attitude”

By Vineet Anantharaman

Few players in IPL history have a CV as decorated as Ambati Rayudu’s. Whether it was his first game, or his last in the 2023 IPL Final, he always found a way of chipping in and staying right in the middle of all the action. In an exclusive interview with miemirates.com, he goes down memory lane, reliving his historic moments through those eight years in the Mumbai Indians jersey, and talks about picking up a bat after six months as he dons that famous Blue-and-Gold again with a return to the #OneFamily as the senior-most batter in the MI Emirates side. 

Back in the MI colours after six years, how exciting is it to don the Blue and Gold again? Does this stint at MI Emirates take you back to 2010 with Robin Singh as coach and with Dwayne Bravo with you in the middle-order?

I really have great memories of 2010. For me personally, as well as for Mumbai Indians, it was like a reconstruction. Sachin paaji was there, Robin Singh was there. That year was simply exceptional. We still talk a lot about that year because it was like a launch pad for MI. 

There are a lot of memories that come back to me. Many times, for a guy like me, who does everything that a team asks me to do, winning five tournaments (three IPLs, two CLT20s) in eight years meant a lot. Plus another final as well. I have had great memories playing in Blue-and-Gold. And now when I am at the end of my career, playing once again in the Blue-and-Gold, feels really, really special.

In that period from 2010 to 2017, you did everything at MI – kept wickets, batted at possibly every position, finished games, played the anchor’s role. On your debut though, you took up an overseas player’s slot, and announced yourself with a superb fifty. What are your memories of that day?

I was coming from the ICL into the mainstream. In the first game we played (against Rajasthan Royals), we played only three international players. So that kind of belief they showed in me straightaway meant a lot. 

I remember I hit the first ball I faced for a four. Also before the first game, Sachin paaji called Aditya Tare and me to his room, we had lunch together before leaving. He told us to express ourselves and play freely. I got huge confidence from paaji that day. Really great memories for any cricketer at the start of his career. Playing only three foreigners, scoring a fifty on debut, and winning the game was special. We played a very remarkable season. That one season, I would remember even more than some of the seasons we won. It was that special. 

Winning close games is something MI prides itself on, and you were a part of a bunch of them. You hit a last ball six against Kolkata Knight Riders in 2011 to take us home…

The MI philosophy was built into the team, in terms of the winning mentality that everyone carries. We all always wanted to win and contribute at some level. If not with the bat, on the field, with one catch, one run-out, that sort of an attitude was there in everyone. We used to call it the ‘MI Attitude’, where everybody was giving it their all. Eventually you dream and you live for a moment like this, hitting a last ball six. This is something I would take to my dying bed. 

Another big moment, and one that’s still very fresh in the Paltan’s head, is the 10-ball 30 knock against Rajasthan Royals in that last league game of 2014 where MI had to win in 14.3 overs to qualify for the playoffs. How crazy was that game? You were nearly in tears when you got run-out at the end!

I thought we lost the game, in the sense we couldn’t qualify for the playoffs. I didn’t know the mathematical rules. It had never happened since 2010 that we didn’t qualify for the playoffs. I couldn’t digest the fact that MI didn’t qualify. We wanted to qualify so badly. We had a bad start to the season, losing five games in a row in UAE. I mean, I don’t think there has been another game played like that. Maybe the 2023 final against GT. But I don’t think there has been a game like that. It has to be one of the best games in the IPL so far. 

And finally, in the 2017 IPL Final against Rising Pune Supergiant, tell us about that catch you took in the final over by the boundary to dismiss Steve Smith, who was taking the game away from MI. The ball was absolutely flying in towards you by the boundary. Do you still go back and watch that?

I was out for a lot of games in that season. I got injured in the first game, and came back only before the play-offs. I was desperate to contribute. It was a low-scoring game, we had to win it somehow. Because I had been keeping wickets for that long for MI, I took the catch like a keeper. Reverse-cupping would have been difficult. It was a full-blooded shot from Steve Smith, and it could have gone through the fingers. It was a very square position too, very unconventional. 

I lost the ball halfway in the lights. Hyderabad has six lights, and there is one right behind square leg. I saw the ball right at the end. It was hit very fast. They needed five runs then, and the match would have been done if the catch hadn’t been taken. It makes me really happy. Those are the moments that win you tournaments. 

Now through your 14-year-long lens of being around in the IPL, what do you think made MI different?

MI was all about winning at any cost. Winning was the only thing. We just wanted to win everything. 

Now as a senior player and a mentor to the players, you’re back with MI Emirates, who are at the top of the table after the first half of ILT20 2024. Who are the players who’ve impressed you? 

I think Muhammad Waseem is really good. There are a few who are yet to play, who are very impressive. The rest are seasoned players. We are playing well. I am coming back after six months without touching a bat. I am happy I have not been needed to bat much (laughs), but now I have had enough practice. Hopefully in the business end of the season, a big one will come out again. 

Principal Partner

Associate Partner

Official Partners