Chitrabhanu Kadalayil shares his thoughts as we approach the play-offs in this year's Indian Premier League
IPL 2018 talking points: Ambati Rayudu on the rise again and the Kane Williamson way
Rayudu returns with a bang
It is said that change is the only constant in life. It certainly is in the case of Ambati Rayudu’s career.
Rayudu was widely tipped to be the next big thing in Indian cricket from the time he emerged on the domestic circuit during the mid-2000s. But a combination of bad temperament and poor judgement – he decided to play in the rebel Indian Cricket League Twenty20 tournament – put paid to hopes of being picked for the national team whenever his name came up in selection committee meetings.
However, things started to look up for him in 2010. By this time the middle-order batsman had developed a little maturity, made peace with the Board of Control for Cricket in India and changed first-class teams after moving from his native Hyderabad to Baroda.
He was roped in to play for Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Mumbai Indians for whom he became a consistent run-accumulator and match-winner.
Rayudu's IPL returns earned him an international call-up in 2013 and over the next three years, he proved a regular fixture in the middle-order. But by 2016, he found himself out of the reckoning despite being in the runs. He was not scoring them quick enough, as his stats show, with his ODI batting strike-rate a sobering 76.28.
But the man does not give up.
Just when he had become something of a forgotten figure, Rayudu has found a way to reinvent his batting. After moving back east to play for a third first-class team (Assam), he also swapped IPL franchises to join Chennai Super Kings.
He has scored 423 runs so far, making him one of the five most successful batsmen at this stage of the competition, and his reward has come in the form of a recall to the national ODI side for their tour of England.
Rayudu may be 32. But his time to finally become an Indian mainstay is now. Kedar Jadhav is injured and his team are still in search of a steady middle-order batsman.
He should never have to move domestic teams ever again.
Punjab too dependent on Rahul
Lokesh Rahul began IPL 2018 with a bang, and he has refused to look back since. He scored the tournament’s fastest fifty against Delhi Daredevils. A little more than a month and 10 innings later, he finds himself topping the run chart.
The problem is he is the only player batting well for Kings XI Punjab. ESPNCricinfo points out Rahul has scored 29 per cent of his team’s runs.
Chris Gayle started well, too, scoring a century and a half-century before fitness and a loss of form have come back to dog the veteran opener. The middle-order’s contributions have also been pipsqueak in comparison.
Punjab have benefited from their bowlers’ performances, particularly Afghanistan’s mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who has taken 14 wickets. But the other batsmen need to step up if they want to avoid a repeat of Tuesday night’s defeat to Rajasthan Royals.
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No Warner, no worries
There have been more than a few success stories in this year's competition. But when it is all done and dusted, Kane Williamson’s could be the biggest of them of all.
Williamson is no stranger to Sunrisers Hyderabad or to the role of captaincy, seeing as he is New Zealand’s team leader. But he was in the spotlight at the start of the tournament after being asked to replace original captain David Warner, who was suspended for his involvement in a ball-tampering row. The question was how the larger-than-life Australian opener’s absence would affect the morale of the team.
Not at all, some would say.
After 10 games, they are perched somewhat comfortably at the top of the table. They have lost just two games and are strong favourites to win the tournament.
While their bowlers deserve the lion’s share of the credit, Williamson has scored the bulk of the runs by finding a way to marry his classical batting technique with the demand for quick runs.
Call it the Williamson Way, if you like.
In the last column, Ajinkya Rahane and Ben Stokes had been reserved some blame for Rajasthan’s recent struggles. This week let us point fingers at Jaidev Unadkat.
If Stokes topped the draft, the left-arm paceman was the second-most expensive buy. His returns? Eight wickets from 10 games at an average of 41.50 and economy-rate of 9.76.
Granted, the wickets are flat and this is T20 cricket. But for someone playing in his ninth domestic season on the sometimes lifeless Indian wickets, these figures are simply unacceptable.