When Ruturaj Gaikwad failed in the first couple of matches playing for Chennai Super Kings, not many gave him a chance to become one of the future stars for the franchise. In a dramatic turnaround a year down the line, the management has already decided that the Maharashtra 25-year-old will be one of their retentions for the next season when a new auction takes place.
It has a lot to do with the quiet confidence skipper MS Dhoni has in him and the right-hander has backed it up with some sparkling shows. While he ended last season with a couple of Man of the Match awards, this time around on resumption, his innings of 88* off 58 balls on Sunday helped CSK notch up a brilliant come-from-behind win against the mighty Mumbai Indians.
One thing which was noticeable was the way Ruturaj was clearing the boundary, his four sixes being a case in point. He swept Jasprit Bumrah for a six, showing how he could easily generate power despite not being a muscular man.
“We have had tabs on him for some time. Even last time we were here, we rushed him back despite the fact that he had just recovered from Covid-19. That is the amount of regard and respect we have for his ability. The way he finished the IPL last year in Dubai set him up for the first part in India and the innings against Mumbai Indians was really special,” CSK coach Stephen Fleming said after the match.
Ruturaj, who had opened the batting, was not ruffled one bit when wickets were falling around him. There was a sense of calm about which he went about his work, surviving the initial phase and then taking on the spinners. It was followed by an assault on Bumrah, something that not too many batsmen around the world have been able to do. It was an innings of maturity and aggression that should give him the confidence going forward.
The mild-mannered right-hander acknowledged that this was one of his “top innings until now”. “Given the pressure we were in, I had to grind it out, bat till 10-12 overs, give myself time and push for 120-130 and so on. It was a matter of spending time in the middle,” Ruturaj said.
The one good thing about the CSK management is that they do not put undue pressure on players who they believe are good enough to deliver. There is a sense of calmness in the line-up, which is essentially a Dhoni trait and Ruturaj accepts he has benefitted from that.
“Once Mahi bhai and others in the CSK management back you, they don’t make you think anything but positive things. The Sri Lanka tour and preparation coming here also helped a lot,” Ruturaj said.
The batsman, who is fifth on the highest scorer’s list in this IPL with 284 so far, has not found a place in India’s T20 World Cup squad. But if he can keep on repeating the Sunday heroics, things may change.