Rayudu Chennai
Chennai Super Kings' Ambati Rayudu plays a shot against Mumbai Indians during the first match of IPL 2020, at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, UAE on September 19, 2020. Image Credit: PTI

If there’s a crisis, Ambati Rayudu is your man. He’s no stranger to crises, and Rayudu has weathered them all. Saturday’s rescue act in the IPL 2020 opener in Abu Dhabi was merely the latest in his portfolio.

When Rayudu arrived at the crease, the Chennai Super Kings had suffered two setbacks with only six runs on the board. Mumbai Indians’ pacers Trent Boult and James Pattinson were moving the ball around. He quickly settled down and took charge with an array of strokes. Rayudu’s sustained aggression allowed Faf du Plessis to drop anchor, and the duo strung together a partnership of 115 which became the bulwark for CSK’s successful chase.

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Rayudu’s 71 from 48 balls, forged with clean strokes, placed CSK firmly on the road to victory. His early form is undoubtedly good news for Chennai, who are eager to erase the disappointment of their loss in 2019 final.

For Rayudu, 34, the knock was another reminder of the quality India missed during the last World Cup in England. Some botched selection left him out of the team when he seemed to have sewed up the berth with good displays in Australia. That was a personal crisis, one that prompted him to announce his retirement.

Fortunately for Chennai Super Kings, Rayudu had a rethink. And Saturday’s display showed that he still had plenty to offer.

Captain of India Under-19 World Cup team

Born Ambati Thirupathi Rayudu in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, he made his mark in age-level tournaments in the country, and that fetched him an India A cap. Some solid knocks for Indian A made him a prospective middle-order batsman for India, and he went on to captain India in the 2004 Under-19 World Cup.

His fierce temper led to confrontations with players and umpires. Such incidents tended to overshadow his talent. A stint with the Indian Cricket League, outlawed by the Board for Control of Cricket in India, in 2007 didn’t help either. Two years later the board lifted the ban on ICL players and that helped Rayudu to rebuild his career.

In the IPL, Rayudu had a fruitful eight-year association with Mumbai Indians from 2010 before switching loyalties to Chennai. His India stock too had soared around the same time, and he played some significant knocks in One-Day Internationals. But Rayudu remained on the fringes, unable to break into the playing eleven regularly. And that included the 2015 World Cup.

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All his hopes were pinned on the 2019 World Cup. Rayudu was to be the No. 4 batsman in the Indian batting order. But the selectors thought otherwise. It was an error that is said to have cost India a place in the final.

Every Rayudu inning now served to tell the selectors, they were wrong to sideline him. Saturday’s matchwinning knock underscores his value as a middle-order batsman. If he continues this rich vein of form, Rayudu could be in the running for a spot in the Indian team for the T20 World Cup next year. Will the selectors oblige him?

For CSK, he’s a valuable player. Saturday’s knock showed why they value Rayudu. Expect more runs from his flashing blade.