CHENNAI: His first-class debut was nothing short of a nightmare. Playing for Maharashtra against Jharkhand at New Delhi’s Karnail Singh Stadium in October, 2016, he was hit by a rising delivery from Varun Aaron inside the first hour of play. It left him with a fractured finger. Ruturaj Gaikwad had to wait till February to play for Maharashtra again.
In contrast, his List A career started with a bang. The opener hit 132 off 110 balls against Himachal and finished with 444 runs, the third-highest in Vijay Hazare Trophy that season. “I was not getting a chance. All that I was looking for was a chance because unless you get to bat, you don’t get to show the world what you are capable of,” he says. Those runs impressed the national selectors. After a couple of seasons, he was in India A squad.
Since this June, to say Gaikwad has been on a roll is an understatement. A player who embodies aggression at the top, he is a clean striker and can tear apart attacks with shots all around the wicket. Beginning with the A series against Sri Lanka in June at home and thereafter in the Caribbean, Gaikwad’s scores read 187* (136), 125* (94), 84 (59), 74 (73), 3 (10), 85 (102), 20 (17), 99 (89). More than the runs, Gaikwad is banking on the lessons from those outings to make a name for himself in the long run.
“I scored against Sri Lanka, but that was at home in familiar conditions. Although they had good bowlers, these are conditions I grew up playing in. West Indies was something different. It was tough to get used to the bounce, but once I made the adjustments, it was rewarding. For me, the experience of spending time with quality players, who have played for India, was most enjoyable. How they prepare and what they do were things I was noting because you need to learn to make progress in your career,” he said.
Gaikwad, who calls himself an introvert and prefers to go to a coach as the last option, stuck a chord with Mike Hussey, during his time with Chennai Super Kings last IPL. “I prefer to analyse my game and make corrections accordingly. I try something and if it works, I do it. If not, I go to the coach because I like learning by myself. That will ensure it stays with me. During the IPL, I went to Hussey because I liked the way he played.
He was also very relaxed. like me, so I wanted to learn the mental side of his game preparation. I specifically asked him about his routines when he was not doing well or what he did when he was trying to play for Australia. Those are the things that matter, because I know to score runs,” Gaikwad said. Gaikwad will play for India A against South Africa A in a five-match one-day series beginning Thursday.