No player entered this year’s edition of the IPL with more pressure and expectations than Ruturaj Gaikwad. On the eve of the tournament opener, the 27-year-old took over the captaincy of the Chennai Super Kings and had to fill in the enormous shoes of M.S. Dhoni. And it was not easy at the start of the season, as it took him five games to get his first half-century. 

Especially with an out-of-form top order and the absence of his regular opening partner, Devon Conway, the Super Kings skipper was searching for the right approach. He even demoted himself to number three in two outings to accommodate Ajinkya Rahane, who was struggling with a calf issue. 

However, in the last five matches, Ruturaj has come into his own with three half-centuries and a ton while striking at over 170. At a time when the focus of most openers is to blast the leather off the cork, Ruturaj has shown the virtues of timing and placement can still do wonders. 

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In his last two knocks against LSG and SRH, he put on an exhibition of copybook shots through the off-side to get going at the start before launching missiles into the crowd. 

CSK batting coach Michael Hussey praised Ruturaj and felt the latter was one step ahead of the bowlers. 

“He is a brilliant timer of the cricket ball,” said Hussey. “I’ve been asking him what his secret is in terms of his placement; he always finds the gaps. He is also a smart batter; he knows when to attack and when to soak up pressure,” he added.

Hussey also credited his ability to assess conditions and play accordingly without compromising on the strike rate. “Initially, sometimes you need to take a bit of care and play some good shots along the ground. And that’s where his placement has been so good, and his strike rate is so good,” said the former Australian great.

One question ahead of the season was how he would perform with the burden of captaincy, and Hussey felt he was growing nicely into the role. 

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“It’s been challenging for him as well. He has taken over the captaincy role from arguably the greatest captain of all time in this country, M.S. Dhoni, and has been able to come in and keep his batting standards up very high. He’s got some good help around him with Stephen Fleming and Dhoni, of course, but to take care of the captaincy aspect in addition to his batting is a real credit to him,” said Hussey.

The Super Kings’ batting coach also hoped the youngsters could learn from Ruturaj. “With many of our younger players sitting on the sidelines, (I) sit with them and talk about what we see with Ruturaj. Why has he been playing so well? How does he construct an inning?” So, seeing how he goes about it is a great learning experience for our younger players,” said Hussey.