Kolkata: The first time I heard Ruturaj Gaikwad’s name, to be honest with you, was as the young opening batsman of Chennai Super Kings who had tested positive for Covid-19 on the eve of the IPL 2020 in the UAE. Much like his franchise, those were tough times for the youngster as he had to be in quarantine for an extended period and the team’s think tank didn’t want to push him early into the rigours of competitive cricket due to the after-effects of the viral attack.
The ever-smiling Ruturaj eventually got a look-in when Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men were out of the reckoning and they were giving those in the dugout a chance with an eye on the 2021 season. In the six innings that he played, the Pune boy gave ample evidence of what he brought to the table - a combination of right technique and grace which showed that one could be successful in top bracket T20 cricket this way too.
No wonder, Ruturaj came back more confident in the ongoing season and after failing to fire in the first three matches, he has turned out to be one of the key figures behind the unstoppable run of the ‘Yellove’ army with 192 runs, including two half-centuries. The innings of 75 off 44 balls (his best in IPL) he played last night as he and senior pro Faf du Plessis toyed with the rival bowling to put up a 129-run stand off 78 balls, signalled that he has arrived.
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It was easily one of the top-notch innings in this edition so far - which should be treated at par with Devdutt Padikkal’s unbeaten century for Royal Challengers Bangalore for the way he treated the pace bowlers and the self-assurance he showed in taking on Rashid Khan, arguably the most dangerous spinner in T20 cricket. It’s not everyday that the Afghan gets treated like this and though he eventually got Ruturaj with gem of a delivery, the opener smashed most of his 12 boundaries against him.
Intriguingly enough, the Maharashtra batsman does not enjoy the kind of hype that some of his ilk - be it Prithvi Shaw, Shubhman Gill or Padikkal do in recent times. A look at his growth as a batsman shows that Ruturaj has never failed to impress since making his first-class debut at the age of 19 in 2016.
He made headlines when he scored 444 runs from only seven matches at a commendable average of 63.42, with three half-centuries and a century in the Vijay Hazare 2016-17 season, and was the third-highest run-getter in the tournament. In July 2019 while playing for India A, Gaikwad amassed 677 runs with an average of 112.83 in the series against Sri Lanka A and West Indies A in eight matches and followed it up with an aggregate of 154 runs against New Zealand A in 3 matches that were held in January 2020.
He was roped in by Chennai for 2019 edition, but could not get a game. However, with Suresh Raina withdrawing his name from the 2020 edition, a slot opened up for the 24-year-old and he seems to be making the most of it so far.
May be, it’s time for Ruturaj to step out of the shadows..