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Cricket news - 58 minutes of Ambati Rayudu

For Rayudu, the last 24 hours would rank amongst the toughest in his cricketing career

It was 4.30 in the evening on Tuesday (April 16) when Ambati Rayudu decided to set Twitter abuzz with a cryptic tweet before taking part in a practice session with the Chennai Super Kings. The mood in the camp was good. In fact it's been great for a while now. After all, the defending champions have comfortably established a lead at the top of the table. But for Rayudu, the last 24 hours would rank amongst the toughest in his cricketing career. The rumours of him being the unlucky one to miss out on the 15-man World Cup squad were true.

When he took a dig at the chief selector post the squad announcement, he hardly received criticism from any quarters. One could sympathise with him. After all, he was so close to being on that plane to England having not played a single game in the 2015 World Cup. His journey had already been one for the ages tracing back to his ICL days when many had shut the door on him. That roller-coaster journey saw him being backed for that coveted No.4 slot by his skipper just six months ahead of the tournament following which he even went an extra mile by quitting first-class cricket to focus his energy on the new lifeline. There must have been a sense of betrayal apart from agony. At 33, another World Cup opportunity probably does not even exist considering India's vast talent pool.

And then there was Vijay Shankar waiting on Wednesday. Chennai's Vijay Shankar representing Hyderabad against Hyderabad's Rayudu representing Chennai a day after the tweet that made Rayudu's displeasure very clear. Vijay pipping him for the No.4 spot as a result of his ability to contribute in all three departments didn't go down well with Rayudu. And then on gameday, in the 11th over, Vijay came on and immediately got rid of Faf du Plessis to bring Super Kings' No.4 out to the middle. It just had to happen. You cannot keep a good narrative down, can you?

Rayudu's feisty nature is well documented and the duel certainly got plenty of attraction. The crowd got into the act too when Vijay steamed in and Rayudu almost chopped one back onto his stumps first ball when he attempted a loose drive away from his body. The 3D glasses jokes started doing the rounds on expected lines. Three balls later though, at the end of the over, what the TV cameras didn't show was a moment that not many at the venue saw coming. Vijay, who had walked away after the completion of the over, came back towards Rayudu with the duo shaking hands followed by a small hug. Even though it was on unexpected lines, it was certainly the anticlimax this episode needed so that two cricketers who actually have nothing against each other can get on with their business.

After the game, Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming reiterated the need for Rayudu to refocus his energy into playing well for the franchise while offering a degree of hope with the batsman present among the standbys in case of an injury to any member in that 15-man Indian squad. "Whenever you have a dream that's squashed, there's a certain amount of disappointment and we just have to work closely with him as a team because he has got a job to do for us and he has to recalibrate his goal," Fleming said on the 33-year-old. "Still there's a fair amount of time before the World Cup, anything can happen so he has to make sure that he handles with class and also with performances because those are the two things that he can control."

With the Vijay Shankar episode out of the way, it was business as usual for Rayudu, who kept running out of partners and struggled for timing on a sluggish wicket. Determined to stay at the crease, he survived a review and relied on fetching those quick singles and twos alongside Ravindra Jadeja and even received some treatment at one point after the completion of a double. And then in the final over, the feisty old Rayudu was back again. There's subtlety to his game but there are times he plays like a man possessed who is fuelled by aggression. Umpire Ulhas Gandhe was caught in the middle of another no-ball storm when Bhuvneshwar Kumar sent down two short-pitched deliveries and Rayudu made his displeasure very apparent. The argument continued even after the completion of the innings and he was right in the umpire's face before Yusuf Pathan from the opposition camp had to calm him down.

This was nothing new. He has had his tussles in the past on the field with opponents, his own teammates and umpires. That one no-ball wouldn't have made a difference to the final result. A lot might have happened in his 58-minute stay on the pitch but he made only an unbeaten 25. His side were beaten in a resounding fashion by Sunrisers. But for someone like Rayudu, there is a battle to be won every time he is out there in the middle. And sometimes, even triumphing in them might not be enough as he found out on Monday when those 15 names were revealed.

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