Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - CSK rescued by the range of Ruturaj. Gaikwad pulled CSK out of trouble after they were reduced to 24 for 4.
Gaikwad pulled CSK out of trouble after they were reduced to 24 for 4.
Exactly a year before Sunday's fixture, Ruturaj Gaikwad had emerged out of one of the most draining ordeals of his short career – locked in a hotel room for days after contracting the coronavirus. It got on the nerves of the then 23-year-old, pushing him to stop watching cricket at that time, even as the thought of his peers batting 1000s of deliveries in the nets in preparation for the season ate at him. When he did watch, he went over scenarios in his head and how he'd have played in them, even as CSK sank further and further towards a never-seen-before abyss in the season.
It all turned out fine eventually for the Maharashtra opener, in his attempt to become a constant feature of this CSK side. But the first game of IPL's project resumption was another chance to give more momentum to his upward moving graph, and bring to life one of the many scenes that ran through his mind while he waited on the bench to fully shake off the after-effects of Covid last year.
Ruturaj watched on pensively as his more esteemed top-order teammates struggled to come to grips with a slightly two-paced Dubai surface. The batting demons of 2020, which they appeared to have successfully buried in the first half of this season, were resurrected by MI's pacers, leaving them at 24 for 4 after the PowerPlay. MS Dhoni admitted it was a tricky time to bat after that early wreckage, not knowing whether smashing their way out of trouble would've been wiser of just taking a cue from the captain's template by going deep into the innings where Kieron Pollard had Jasprit Bumrah to turn to. The CSK opener, for starters, patiently lay in wait for the spinners to come in.
“I had to take my chances against the spinners. The fast bowlers [Boult and Milne] had already bowled three-three overs so the spinners had to bowl four or five overs. Jaddu [Jadeja] had just come in, so I had to take my chances,” he'd later say.
The confidence of taking his chances came from owning a game steeped in spin play. Ruturaj showed off being equally adept at stepping out – like he did so nonchalantly against Krunal Pandya in the 12th over for a straight six – and rocking back to cut the ball away – in the 13th over against Rahul Chahar's shorter length. This brief middle phase when CSK miraculously found their bearings [44/4 in 10 overs to 87/4 in 15], wasn't about Pollard loosening the noose, as much as it was about Ruturaj breaking his team free from it.
Before the innings got to its manic finish, Ruturaj peeled off three shots that demonstrated why and how this sweet-timing ball-caresser has quickly made a place for himself in a world dominated by bigger, muscular batsmen with a pronounced power game. Against a short-ish ball from Pollard at an awkward pace, Ruturaj got into position early and waited there with a still base that allowed him to pull comfortably through deep midwicket to get to his third half-century of the season. In the same over, he exploited Pollard's fields by using a similar pull but much straighter this time, to beat the wide long on fielder. The cake, though, belonged to his successful one-upmanship over Bumrah in the 17th over.
Bumrah began with a death-over staple – a full and wide slower ball to throw Ruturaj off his game, whose cheeky attempt to hit over slips were unfounded. The backend specialist bowled an exact replica next up, only for Ruturaj to quickly revert to his primary skillset. He rocked back and low to wait, once again with a perfectly still base, before reaching out and launching the ball over long off for a six.
Dwayne Bravo did most of the damage to MI leading up to the last over, but Ruturaj found two more opportunities – again versus Bumrah – to show off his hitting range, his straight-batted efficiency and anticipation skills, all in the space of two deliveries. First, another full and wide ball was shuffled across to and precisely lofted over extra cover with a straight bat. Then, a straighter attempt at a yorker was second-guessed, as Ruturaj waited and swept the 142kmphs delivery over the deep backward square leg to finish the innings on 156 for 6.
“Today's innings was very special. It's okay to play an innings in a high-scoring game and dominate, but when you're the one to score and give your team a chance, it is even more special. It was really down to his hand that we were able to create any pressure whatsoever. It was a remarkable innings really,” Stephen Fleming gushed, not for the first time, about his young opener.
Last year, the CSK head coach had half-joked about the opener's late form making it tough for them, as their well-researched and staunchly-backed investment in him could easily be rivaled at the auction table. A year on, as he mopped up the mess created by the top-order to add a sixth half-century to his IPL tally, the threat of multiple suitors circling for him in the postponed mega-auctions is starting to look very real.