Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - The CSK hand in Rayudu's return to cricket. Ambati Rayudu has been CSK's second-highest run-getter since joining the franchise in 2018
Ambati Rayudu has been CSK's second-highest run-getter since joining the franchise in 2018
There was a sense of eerie familiarity when India were reduced to 5/3 against New Zealand in the semifinal of the 2019 World Cup. Just five months ago, against the same opposition in Wellington, India were reeling at 17/3. The only difference in the two games was the eventual result. And Ambati Rayudu. India were knocked out of the World Cup in Manchester, whereas at the Westpac Stadium, Rayudu's 90 had led the visitors to their fourth win in the five-match ODI series.
Rayudu was the answer to India's No.4 conundrum that they were struggling with for a couple of years leading into the World Cup. He was endorsed by the Indian management given how he had transformed his game and fine-tuned his skills to more than just ‘fit into' the modern game. Be it amending his technique with tweaks in his bat lift and bat face, increasing his weight training, eating right or adopting the regime of intermittent fasting. The result – in 2018-19 season, across 20 innings, Rayudu had scored 639 runs, averaging 42.60 and striking at 84.08.
Yet, when the D-day arrived, Rayudu was engulfed in disappointment beyond imagination. He didn't find his name in the squad for the World Cup with Vijay Shankar picked instead. All those numbers and endorsements now reeked of futility and then came the “3D glasses” comment.
Would Rayudu have reacted differently in hindsight? “Not really – disappointment is disappointment,” he says to Cricbuzz. “I had worked really hard to get into the Indian side and to play the World Cup. The whole journey was to play the World Cup. And eventually, when that didn't happen I was actually very disappointed. Me being me, I just… (laughs).
“Every character is different and you cannot school someone to be something they're not. You are the way you are. You cannot have the same characters represent the same team. We're all different characters that make up the team's character. So, that's how I was and I don't regret saying anything, to be honest.”
In that dark hour, Rayudu contemplated quitting the game he had been introduced to by his father when he was 8. All the hard work was for nothing, it seemed, with him made to face the fact that his last chance of playing a World Cup for India flew by and he could little about it.
“There wasn't a gap as such when I was playing,” he says about the communication between the board and the players. “The only thing was… sometimes you don't understand why you're picked, sometimes you don't understand why you're not. Those are the decisions made by the selectors and that's their job, so it's fair enough. In every ICC tournament, however, your 1,2,3,4 are openers; they are making them 3 & 4 and mostly most of them open for their respective franchises. I think that's where India is missing a trick. Your middle-order batsmen have to be your middle order batsmen. Just because they have piled up runs in the IPL doesn't mean they can play at 3,4,5 and 6. I think that is one area that Indian cricket now especially with all the youngsters like Shreyas, Surya, Rishabh… should be persisted with. And also a middle-order batsman should play in the middle order in every format he plays in India, even in domestic cricket… that's where he will learn the art of playing in the middle order. It's not the same as an opener and both should be judged by different yardsticks.”
Just when Rayudu was indulging deeper into frustration, he got called by Chennai Super Kings' management to play some one-day games in Chennai for India Cements to take his mind off things. And it served its purpose as Rayudu changed his mind and did a U-turn on his retirement decision.
“With the management, Kasi sir… I met Dhoni bhai in Chennai after. They're people who genuinely believed in me as a cricketer and also know me as a person and character. So they were able to get the best out of me to be very honest. That way, I'm really grateful to them for understanding me. As I say, every character is different and you need to know how to deal with them. CSK as a whole, the management and Dhoni bhai… that's why he's the best captain. He knows how to get the best out of everyone. I feel very comfortable there at CSK – in terms of my role, what they expect out of me, whatever I can do. That way you feel like you want to give more than your best and more than your 100% for the team.
“CSK actually talked me out of it (World Cup disappointment) and they were the ones that were instrumental in me making a comeback, playing a few one-day games in Chennai for India Cements… and helped me get over that phase. Obviously, it was a very tough phase, I even wanted to give up. I thought there was no point playing anymore but since I was still fit and felt I had a lot of cricket in me, eventually I got convinced and thought why should I give up for no fault of mine? Once I got over that phase, I started playing for CSK and now I'm actually really enjoying my cricket with the IPL and whatever else I can bring to the table.”
And Rayudu has given it his all. Since their return in 2018 after the two-year ban, he had belted the most number of sixes for CSK – 70, his strike-rate of 200 in the death overs was the highest for the IPL 2021 season behind only AB de Villiers, and he is the second highest run-scorer for the franchise with 1500 runs in 57 innings, averaging 34.09 behind Faf du Plessis.
Rayudu has shown his versatility along with his reformed game that has been a massive boon in not just elongating his career, but even for CSK. “Even at MI, I've played every role… right from No.3 to No.7. I've never been the one to say I can only bat here or bat there. It's always been in the team's interest and I've always enjoyed that because see, being able to do what the team asks of you and what the team needs, is actually a very special feeling. At the end of the day, that's what matters and if you're able to give the team what it needs from you, then there's nothing more satisfying than that.”
It's obvious that come the mega auction, he's got his eyes set on returning to a set-up that has given him much more than just a chance to play. He recently played the Vijay Hazare Trophy and got through it pretty well despite having had to play five games in six days and hopes to get in some time in the middle ahead of the new IPL season. “I start batting practice about 3-4 weeks before any tournament. Beyond that, I train, keep myself fit and eat right. But batting, if I'm working on something, it's different but otherwise I only generally do 3-4 weeks. Anything more than that I feel is stale. To get into a proper rhythm this I feel works best.
“I don't want to think of any other team other than CSK right now to be very honest,” he said looking ahead to the auction. “If not, I don't know, but as of now, I don't want to think about anything else. In 2017 in the auction year… I hadn't played cricket for a year due to some cartilage issue, CSK, I felt, was the only team that had that belief that you know he can comeback from the injury and can do well. They picked me in the auction and I was really very happy from then on representing them. I really have enjoyed my time with them from then on, and it is fair to say that they are the best franchise in terms of how they look after cricketers. I know only two franchises, but still. I've been mentally at peace with CSK unlike my time in Hyderabad. I'd really enjoy playing for them again.”