Vijay Shankar seems to keep finding himself in the spotlight. It happened at the Nidahas Trophy last season, when he was fast-tracked into the ODI team, and then – although it was shared many ways – when he was one of several No. 4 aspirants.
On Tuesday, just a day after being named India’s No. 4 for the World Cup, he was dragged back into the spotlight. This time because of a tweet from the man who had publicly been allotted that No. 4 spot by the India captain for many months leading into the World Cup.
Ambati Rayudu doesn’t tweet very often, but this wasn’t the first time he has been in the news for tweeting. In 2017, he’d hit out at Harsh Goenka, brother of Sanjiv Goenka, who owned the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant. Rayudu had tweeted in support of MS Dhoni, who’d made a fifty shortly after Harsh had celebrated the appointment of Steven Smith as Supergiant’s captain at the time.
It was with Dhoni that Rayudu first appeared on the field for Wednesday’s match. Dhoni had his arm around Rayudu’s shoulder as they walked in for training, and drew applause from the crowd at Hyderabad. It hadn’t been clear from Rayudu’s ‘3d glasses’ tweet if he was unhappy with the reasons given for his omission, or with the man who had been picked ahead of him.
Vijay Shankar doesn’t bowl often at this level. For India, he has generally been the sixth option. For Sunrisers, he had only bowled five overs before this game.
But he had the ball when Rayudu walked in on Wednesday. Here it was then, the spotlight again for Vijay Shankar. Had he been dragged in to a fight he’d done nothing to be part of? Was there a fight at all?
It did not matter to the announcer at the stadium, who had picked up on a fantastical script: Ambati Rayudu v Vijay Shankar. Rayudu against Hyderabad. Vijay Shankar against his own home. Orange flags everywhere, and many thousands of yellow shirts in the stands.
His chant hinged on the words “Shankar dada MBBS,” borrowed from the Telugu film of that name, followed by “hoo ha hoo ha,” borrowed from the terraces of any ground along the south-eastern coast of India.
The crowd took to it. Vijay Shankar ran in, bowled length outside off, and nearly got Rayudu to drag onto the stumps, first ball. Oooooo.
The bout was on. The “3D derby” tweets were rushing in. Rayudu soon had the strike back and responded with the oldest form of defiance – the forward block. How exciting, the head-to-head battle in a team sport, a scream in the face of all players who insist It’s All About The Team.
A little more Shankar Dada MBBS for the crowd. Hoo ha. Hoo ha.
And then the over ends. A couple of pats from Rayudu to Vijay Shankar. Is that the end of what might be a hug?
Are you kidding me! It was almost as if Rayudu didn’t hold Vijay Shankar responsible for something he wasn’t responsible for. Madness.
There was no fight. Rayudu chipped one wide of midwicket in Vijay Shankar’s next over. Had the catch been taken, it would have fed into and amplified the narrative. But there wasn’t a catch, and it was probably the best result, because there wasn’t bad blood either by the looks of it. There are no dimensions to this. One of them is going to the World Cup, the other is on standby. On we go. It is still, tragically, all about the team. Let us reconvene when Rayudu crosses paths with MSK Prasad.