Rayudu will retire after the final of IPL 2023 [Credits: CSK]

Ambati Rayudu is a champion IPL cricketer - nothing will ever change it

Cast your mind back to IPL 2018. The Chennai Super Kings have returned after a two-year hiatus, have largely retained their core and made a few noteworthy additions, including Ambati Rayudu, Deepak Chahar and Shane Watson.

Their campaign begins with a memorable win against the Mumbai Indians. MS Dhoni then turns back the clock at the Chinnaswamy Stadium against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. CSK’s chaos theory also takes the Kings XI Punjab (Punjab Kings now) by storm at Pune.


In the playoffs, Faf du Plessis produces a knock for the ages against the Sunrisers Hyderabad. Mere days later, Watson, while being 0 off 10 at one stage, blazes away to his second IPL ton in the season and takes CSK to their third IPL title.

Whenever you hear someone talk about that IPL 2018 campaign, there is a mention of how Dhoni assembled the Dad’s Army and then took them all the way. There is chat around how Watson scored when it most mattered, and how Chahar and Shardul Thakur shouldered the bowling responsibility.

But look at that season closely, and one of the most prominent parts was played by Rayudu. He ended up scoring more than 600 runs, came up clutch whenever CSK needed him to, and even earned himself a recall into the Indian cricket team.


Three years later, he whipped up another impactful season. It was not as run-laden as 2018, but at the 2021 edition of the IPL, he struck at more than 150, doing just what CSK needed him to do in the middle order. No prizes for guessing who won the title that season.

These are not anomalies – far from it actually. When Rayudu was part of the MI setup, he had all these superstars around him – the likes of Kieron Pollard, Rohit Sharma, an up-and-coming Hardik Pandya and a buccaneering Lendl Simmons.


Yet, Rayudu was one of the most important cogs in that MI wheel. The team knew it, and those who played alongside him, did too. And that is why he is, despite not quite being at his best this year, still respected and loved by his teammates. That he has five IPL titles, is further testament to it.

2 great teams mi nd csk,204 matches,14 seasons,11 playoffs,8 finals,5 trophies.hopefully 6th tonight. It’s been quite a journey.I have decided that tonight’s final is going to be my last game in the Ipl.i truly hav enjoyed playing this great tournament.Thank u all. No u turn

Such has been Rayudu’s career, though, that he was never painted by the media to be a batting superstar. He was one of their favourites when it came to controversies and run-ins but there always seemed to be someone who was hyped up more than Rayudu, despite the latter being just as talented (or more) than his contemporaries.

Rayudu has been an IPL stalwart for CSK and MI


He has not let it affect his game, especially in the IPL, where he has scored more than 4000 runs. The batter averages under 30 and also strikes at less than 130. But the fact that he has played more than 200 games – all of those coming either for CSK or MI, tells you that he was regularly doing whatever his side needed him to do, rather than just strive for personal milestones.

Maybe that was why he was, despite his talent and extraordinary stroke-making ability, never really looked upon as the guy or the main man.

That narrative began in the early 2000s, when many thought he was going to be the nation’s next big batting superstar, having led India at the 2004 U-19 World Cup.

That side boasted Dinesh Karthik, RP Singh, Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina. Each of them made their debuts long before Rayudu, and you could argue that all of them, as things stand, can lay claim to a more fruitful international career.


Part of that was because the lure of the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) took Rayudu away from Indian cricket for a while. By the time he returned, he had fallen down the pecking order – behind the likes of Rohit and Virat Kohli, who started off much later but seemed destined for great careers.

Rayudu still had a rattle at the India gig, almost playing the 2019 World Cup, only to be side-lined for what the selection committee then said was a three-dimensional player.

A string of injuries at that tournament left the door ajar for him to return but once he was overlooked, he announced his international retirement, having not featured at a World Cup for India, despite averaging more than 45 in ODI cricket.

Whenever Rayudu’s name has been spoken henceforth, it has always had an asterisk attached - the feeling of what could have been being the prevalent and underlying theme.


In the IPL, too, his arrival was delayed because of his connection to the ICL. Once he did, though, he became pivotal to the teams he represented. The Mumbai Indians had that luxury for more than half a decade, and CSK have availed it since the 2018 season.

Even here, there was the odd back-and-forth everyone could have done without – like the retirement U-turn last campaign. But for most of his IPL career, he was a champion player – someone who, with a bit of faith and trust, would do special things for his franchise.

In 2023, that has not materialized yet. CSK, however, have backed him, akin to how MI did and unlike what India did when Rayudu needed an arm around his shoulder. Over the years, that extra confidence has culminated in the right-handed batter making people gape in awe at a jaw-dropping performance.

Straight to our feels! 🥹
The mid order booster!

#WhistlePodu #Yellove 🦁 @RayuduAmbati

As Rayudu gears up to play his last game – in the final of IPL 2023, no less – there is no guarantee that he will be able to roll back the years. That does not matter, though, for he has already done everything any team could have asked of any player.

The numbers might not place him in the pantheon of some of the most prolific run-scorers this league has seen. Nor will his average and strike rate be among the best to have ever played the IPL.

Just cast a glance at his batting and his ability to come up clutch, though, and you will understand why he was, is and will remain revered across two massive fan bases.

All it took was a bit of trust and a concerted effort to make him feel wanted. When that happened, oh, Rayudu was special. And nothing that unfolds on Monday will change it. Absolutely nothing.

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Edited by
Srinjoy Sanyal
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