IPL 2020 was a forgettable outing for Chennai Super Kings.
However, there was a silver lining – The emergence of Ruturaj Gaikwad, who had kept a low profile in the IPL ever since the Chennai Super Kings bought him for INR 20 lakhs at the 2019 auction.
Gaikwad had been bought by CSK after he consistently registered big scores for Pune in domestic cricket.
The stylish right-handed batsman did not have the best start to his IPL career last season.
He tested positive for the novel coronavirus before the season kicked off in Dubai and had to spend over three weeks in quarantine.
Gaikwad was not even expecting to be called for the first team after joining the training camp, but Dhoni turned to him when Ambati Rayudu was sidelined with an injury.
On his IPL debut, the youngster returned to the pavilion on a first-ball duck against Rajasthan Royals followed by 5 against Delhi Capitals.
But the team management backed him and elevated him in the batting order.
The 24-year-old then opened in the IPL for the first time alongside veteran South Africa batsman Faf du Plessis.
Yet again, Gaikwad again couldn’t survive for too long as he was dismissed after playing merely five balls, thanks to a typical Trent Boult in-swinger.
But this is where the mental toughness of the Pune star came to the fore.
Despite a series of low scores, he continued to trust his batting and went on to grab Man Of The Match awards in three consecutive games.
Gaikwad scored 65 not out against Bangalore, 72 against Kolkata, and an unbeaten 62 in the final league game against Punjab.
CSK were already out of the title race by then, but a major plus point from the 2020 campaign was finding a genuine stroke-maker in the 24-year-old Gaikwad.
Gaikwad‘s roadmap ahead
Gaikwad needs to build on last year’s momentum.
It’s clear that the management trusts him. He has to justify this faith by continuing where he left off, last year.
He needs to stick to his instincts and amass quick runs for the Kings with an improved strike rate.
Gaikwad has played only six IPL games so far, but he has received high praise from great cricketing greats.
From being called “a young Virat Kohli by Du Plessis to “young superstar” by Shane Watson, his talent has been acknowledged in cricketing circles.
Even Sunil Gavaskar and Kumar Sangakkara were in awe of his ability to play free-flowing shots during pressure moments.
Good domestic record
Ruturaj first came into the limelight during the 2016-17 Vijay Hazare Trophy when he finished as the third highest run-scorer in the tournament.
He scored a staggering 456 runs in the 2019 Syed Mushtaq Trophy to become the second-highest scorer of the competition.
Gaikwad’s consistency in the domestic circuit showed that he was all set to take on the next challenge in cricket.
Not surprisingly, he was then called up for India A tours and also featured in the 2018 ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup.
Gaikwad went on to score 187 not out against Sri Lanka the same year and that knock played a major role in being picked in the IPL auction.
Areas of improvement
Like most Indian batsmen, Gaikwad is technically sound and his average of 51 in the IPL speaks volumes of it.
However, one thing he can work on is his power-hitting.
The right-handed batsman has mostly been anchoring the innings from one end, keeping the scoreboard ticking with singles and doubles.
This has resulted in a considerably low strike rate (120) and this could cost him in a high-scoring game.