Ruturaj Gaikwad
Ruturaj Gaikwad of the Chennai Super Kings in action against the Mumbai Indians in IPL 2021 at the Dubai International Stadium on September 19, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

My prediction of an easy win for the Mumbai Indians went horribly wrong. And the man responsible for wrecking it is young Ruturaj Gaikwad. I was patting myself when Trent Boult and Adam Milne repeatedly struck to blow away the Chennai Super Kings’ top order. With half the side back in the dugout, the 24-year-old held his nerve to anchor the innings and steer them to relative safety. And Chennai bowlers did the rest, with Deepak Chahar leading the way.

There was no doubting Gaikwad’s class, which is why CSK picked him. When the pair of Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis were providing flying starts, he hardly got a look in. But when CSK’s IPL campaign in the UAE unravelled last year, several youngsters were allowed to gain some exposure. And Gaikwad served notice of his batting talent.

So when Watson called time on his career, Gaikwad was an automatic choice for Chennai. And he repaid that faith with some well-crafted knocks this year. The youngster from Maharashtra is no Watson clone; his aggression is more restrained. You won’t see him launch into expansive strokes in the powerplay. Du Plessis is there to do that. Gaikwad’s job is to keep it steady, and once he’s got his eye in, the boundaries will come.

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That’s precisely what we saw at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday (September 19, 2021). When CSK batsmen were collapsing around him, Gaikwad stood firm. He too was caught up in the eddy of clattering wickets and edged only to see wicketkeeper Quentin de Kock drop a difficult chance. It was a momentary lapse in concentration against leg-spinner Rahul Chahar. That was the turning point of the match.

Gaikwad never looked back. Instead, he unfurled some delightful strokes and repaired the innings in the company of Ravindra Jadeja. And that allowed Dwayne Bravo to play a cameo: the 8-ball 23 took the match away from Mumbai.

IPL 2021 is moving towards the business end, and we will get to see more of Gaikwad. He sure is a delight to watch. No wonder Chennai Super Kings’ fans are whistling for him.