Domestic cricket: Rayudu returns to Baroda, Arun Lal steps down as Bengal head coach

New Delhi, July 13 (IANS) Veteran Indian cricketer Ambati Rayudu has been signed up by Baroda as a professional player for the upcoming domestic season.
 
Domestic cricket: Rayudu returns to Baroda, Arun Lal steps down as Bengal head coach

New Delhi, July 13 (IANS) Veteran Indian cricketer Ambati Rayudu has been signed up by Baroda as a professional player for the upcoming domestic season.

Rayudu's decision to join Baroda comes after he was given a no-objection certificate from the Andhra Cricket Association. The batter is available to play all formats, though in recent years, he has mostly made himself available for white-ball cricket and last played a first-class game in November 2017.

The 36-year old 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. His return will boost the batting department of Baroda, who are trying to convince India all-rounder Deepak Hooda to return too.

Hooda left Baroda in late 2020 after a fallout with then captain Krunal Pandya. He spent a successful season with Rajasthan after that, which resulted in his India call-up. Since February this year, the cricketer 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.They have cleared their differences. They played and excelled together for the same IPL team. They have sorted whatever issues they have," Shishir Hattangadi, the Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) chief executive, told ESPNcricinfo.

"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," he added.

Meanwhile, Arun Lal has stepped down 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, 24x7, and almost seven months on the road. So I thought it was time to stop, before being kicked out," Lal said with a laugh.

"And Bengal have been doing well, they are on the right track," he added.

While the 66-year-old Lal has enjoyed the full support of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) during his tenure, there have occasionally been murmurs among the players of his "old-school ways". However, Bengal became 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. Last year's winners did not qualify for the semifinals this year. The finalists this year did not make the semi-finals last year. Only Bengal made the knockouts in both seasons. So, they are in a good place," he said.

"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," he added.

After Lal's resignation, the CAB is yet to make an announcement on their next head coach. Saurasish Lahiri, the former Bengal off-spinner, is currently assistant coach, while Joydeep Mukherjee is the director of cricket.

--IANS

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