PUNE: “Looks like a young Kohli, doesn’t he?”
Former South Africa captain and his opening partner Faf du Plessis must’ve been referring to Ruturaj Gaikwad’s cover drive when he talked about his teammate at Chennai Super Kings.
The check of the follow-through after the shot is what stands out when India skipper Virat Kohli and Gaikwad play the cover drive.
On Sunday, the 23-year-old Pune batsman, who plays for Varroc Vengsarkar Academy, notched up his third consecutive match-winning fifty (62*, 49b, 6x4s, 1×6) to end Kings XI Punjab’s playoff hopes. He had scored 72 (53b, 6x4s, 2x6s) and 65 not out (51b, 4x4s, 3x6s) against Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore respectively. It came on the backdrop of a sequence of 0, 5 and 0.
“What stands out for me is that he stands up to pressure. That’s the quality you look for in young players to see if they get to the next level,” du Plessis said after the match.
Du Plessis was the latest ‘big name’ after captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming from the CSK camp to heap praise on Gaikwad for his solid display after nervy scores in his first three matches.
The lanky batsman spoke to TOI exclusively from Dubai and was exploring the famous Dubai Mall and its aquarium. The happiness of not being in a bubble anymore was all over his face, having to spend the longest time in quarantine after contracting the virus.
“This is just great!” he said about the new-found freedom. “To be in quarantine for so long was disappointing and frustrating. I thought a week’s quarantine would suffice and hence did not even have my bat with me in the other hotel to do any shadow practice.
“So, focusing on cricket would’ve hampered me in a negative manner and thus I decided to take my mind completely off it,” he said about the time spent in isolation.
“I had practiced with Faf in the nets but not so much with Shane Watson. So when I went out to bat with him (vs KKR), I had to tell Watson how I admire him as a player and it took all the pressure off me,” Gaikwad said about batting with two biggies in CSK line-up.
Gaikwad was picked by CSK for his base price of Rs 20 lakh last year but did not get a game. However, his coach Mohan Jadhav mentioned that Ruturaj understood that he can benefit even from being with such a strong squad and will have to be patient about his chances.
Jadhav, who started coaching Ruturaj when he was 12, was laughing when he mentioned that he received a fair amount of messages asking him to tell Ruturaj to not step out the first ball since the batter was stumped on a golden duck on his IPL debut.
“I told those who messaged me that it is just one side of the coin. Ruturaj’s game is based on timings and finding the gaps and he should stick to it.
“After he stepped out of the crease in the first game, people were quick to pounce on him and I think he now will be remembered for his second step out and six (off Washington Sundar vs RCB),” Jadhav signed off.