Rayudu’s adaptability key in CSK’s rise to the top
Dropped to No. 4 slot, Rayudu hit a 37-ball 79 to help CSK overturn a poor start.
MS Dhoni has always rated Ambati Rayudu right up there in terms of sheer calibre. There has been good reason too, with Rayudu having played some more than handy knocks for India and also Mumbai Indians. He opened the innings with Shane Watson for three games of the five games Chennai Super Kings have played so far in this IPL season, after Murali Vijay was hit on the ribs in the lead-up to the tournament. Rayudu then had to vacate the slot for Vijay and slipped to the third spot, factoring in Suresh Raina’s calf injury. Once again, against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday (April 22), Rayudu was pushed further down the order as Faf du Plessis opened alongside Watson.
Rayudu, however, utilised the familiarity with Hyderabad to once again shine through, proving that his versatility is not overrated – and is one that sets him apart. His innings of 79 off 37 was the platform from which CSK could finish with an above-par total of 182. The question though remains, would he have gotten more and helped CSK off to a strong start had he opened?
Dhoni’s preference for Rayudu to open is understandable given his power-hitting that gives their batting stability. But him being in the middle order for CSK today suited them well – coming in at a tricky situation and shifting the momentum eventually to repay the captain’s faith in his ability to perform anywhere in the line-up.
Day games in Hyderabad have more often than not been low-scorers due to the heat in the summer months that dries up the surfaces. Today’s surface was slow, but quickened up as the day progressed. Chennai finished their powerplay with the lowest score of this season so far, with just 27 runs on the board. And at the halfway mark, had 54. Rayudu came in at 32 for 2 in the eighth over, and showed positive intent right from the onset. What he also did was give a struggling Raina the cushion to take his time and get a move on.
It was at the strategic timeout that Rayudu made clear to batting coach Michael Hussey his intent of taking on SRH’s bowling after that slow start. It started with him being cramped for room off a googly from Rashid Khan. The next ball he faced was dispatched to the boundary, albeit off a mistimed sweep, over midwicket. It eventually went on to being one of his better knocks with CSK belting 128 in the final ten overs. He used his feet against the spinners to get going and left the pacers unsure as to the lengths to bowl with boundaries coming regularly. He scored 34 runs off 15 deliveries he faced against the pacers, chiefly targetting the leg-side with as many as 46 runs coming in the region.
Rayudu took on the bowlers for 48 runs off the last 16 balls he faced, including six fours and three sixes.
“He played very well. To get off to a strike rate of 200 up there was outstanding and (it) put the pressure back on us,” conceded Kane Williamson after the game. “(He) certainly played a match-winning knock. You do have to take your hats off to the way Rayudu played.”
What also shone through for CSK was having different players standing up at different times to pull off wins in four of the five games they’ve played so far. If Dwayne Bravo’s brilliance took them over the line against Mumbai Indians in the tournament opener, Watson’s stellar century gave them a thumping win over Rajasthan Royals. Sam Billings’s blitz helped them overcome Kolkata Knight Riders, while Raina’s unbeaten 54 today kept them afloat, along with a rampaging Rayudu that put them in control.
For a team that was labelled as the one with their personnel on the better side of age, what this supposed ‘downside’ also brought with it as an accomplice was experience. On Sunday, it was Rayudu’s experience that came to CSK’s rescue, again underlining how crucial the wisdom of aged has been to their campaign, which looks good to go the distance.