Express News Service

CHENNAI: Ruturaj Gaikwad is taking a deserved time off in Pune after a successful stint with Chennai Super Kings, where he ended up as the Orange Cap holder with 635 runs. The 24-year-old is the youngest to win the it and in an interview with this daily, he talks about the title-winning campaign and more. Excerpts. 

On wearing the Cap during the final

It obviously felt good. But I think it is over now. We won the title and we celebrated a lot and it is done and dusted. Time to look forward now.

On your thoughts going into the final, knowing you could win the title as well as the Orange Cap

I was actually thinking about giving the team the start that we have been giving. Being with Faf (du Plessis) and stitching a good partnership… at least 30-40 runs was the priority. And once we crossed the powerplay, it was about one of us taking the chance and other batting till the end. So the plan was to put the team first and see what kind of game is needed for the situation and perform accordingly.

On becoming the youngest Orange Cap holder

As I said it feels good. It is also important, but considering what happened last season, even personally, I wanted that trophy. It is something they have won in the past and I too wanted to win it for the franchise. Right from the start, we had prepared well and made sure we would play good cricket and I think it is a reward for the process we put through in the practice sessions and at the camps in Chennai and Dubai. Those sessions really helped a lot.

On how much these runs mean to you in terms of where your career goes from here

I don’t want to look in that aspect. These runs have come for a winning cause, especially for Chennai Super Kings and that is important for me for the faith they showed. I need to go and score consistently in domestic cricket now. I’m happy for myself, but I’m not expecting this to get me something. It is better to stay in the moment.

On the team backing you in a phase when you hadn’t started well

There was talk only outside the bubble. There was nothing inside the team about my low scores or even doubts over my ability. Be it the coach or the captain, nobody even spoke about it. Plus in one match, I got a good ball and in the other the pitch was not good. They have seen such phases with players before. So I never felt any pressure or did I feel I was out of form. And since nobody was talking or mentioning about it, I also didn’t read too much into it. I remember Mike Hussey just telling me ‘you are just one knock away and need to trust the process’, and that is what I did. I’m lucky to be part of this team because they never let any of the outside talk to get in.

On the postponement after you had started scoring well and were you worried 

 I was. But since we started practicing in Dubai a month before the tournament resumed, it helped a lot. We got used to the conditions. We created match simulations and practiced for short boundaries and long boundaries on one side. We went through lot of match scenarios and followed the process. It was done right and everything was fit into the mind and we only had to go out to perform in the match.

On the condition-specific training 

Since only three grounds were in use, we knew boundaries would be short on one side and long on the other. You generally tend to look for runs in the shorter side, but what we discussed with (Ambati) Rayudu, (Suresh) Raina was with longer boundaries, it is possible to pick the gaps and runs. If we hit in the gaps and get even a couple of twos, the bowler is under pressure and it will play in his mind. With shorter boundaries, who to target.

On the simulations

So we play 20-over games with five batters and rotate the strike if one of us gets out. We will plan one for chasing and another for setting a target. And you need to find a way to score and we had different types of pitches that helped. And even though there are no fielders, you know when you are dismissed. That really helps in shot selection and know which bowler your partner will go after and what options they look for. Those things really help a lot in the middle during the actual match.

On the message from MS Dhoni

From him, it was just about managing the risk factor. That is what he did and it is something I tend to as well, especially while chasing. And if you are set batsman, you have to finish the job by taking it deep. There were a couple of matches where I got out in the 40s when things were under control and not much was needed. That’s when he came up and said, you are capable of finishing matches and you should try and do that because that is what separates a good player and a great player. He put a lot of emphasis on that. And I told him I too want to head in that direction.

On sweeping Jasprit Bumrah 

I have played that shot before. Whenever the square-leg is up and when the bowler is looking for a yorker, it is possible to play that shot. It is impossible to do all the time, but even if the bowler slightly errs in the length, it will go for a six. It has given me rewards in the past. I’ve been playing that shot the last two years and at that moment, I thought he was going to bowl a yorker.

On the innings that gave him most satisfaction

The one against Mumbai Indians because we where not in a good situation. So to take the team to a par total on that pitch was really special. Initially I thought we won’t even get that many runs on board, but we got there in the end. Also the knock against Delhi Capitals in the Qualifier 1, because they had a very good attack and the pitch was slow as well. So to chase 172 was really special. Even MS came up to me and said ‘you staying till 17th over helped the team’ so that was special too.

On whether his performances will mean

Chennai will retain him No, no… not at all. There is a lot of time for it and I’m not thinking about it.

On Chennai fans liking him

They have been great. Even last year, people had high hopes on me even before I played. And I believe this trophy will make them happy. And they are a loyal set of fans, very supportive and are good readers of the game.

On the competition for openers in the national team and where he sees himself

The selection is out of my control. From my end, I have to do all the right things… like scoring well and consistently in whatever tournament I play. What has to happen, will happen.