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Hardik: 'Gaikwad going to do wonders for Indian cricket'

"When the time comes I'm sure the Indian cricket team will also back him enough"

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
01-Apr-2023
Ruturaj Gaikwad "is going to do wonders for Indian cricket" and the team will "back him enough" when his time comes. Hardik Pandya, potentially India's T20I captain as they build towards next year's T20 World Cup, couldn't have been more effusive in his praise for the Chennai Super Kings opener for his incredible 52-ball 90 to kick off IPL 2023 in Ahmedabad in front of 100,000 fans.
On Friday, Gaikwad raced to a half-century off just 23 balls in his first competitive outing since January following a wrist injury that had limited his opportunities for India. His opening salvo put Super Kings in a commanding 121 for 4 after 13 overs, with the stage set for a grandstand finish. They eventually only finished with 178, which MS Dhoni felt was "10-15 short."
"To be very honest, we all know the kind of player he is, at one point of time it looked like CSK would score 220-230," Hardik said after Gujarat Titans secured a tight five-wicket win. "We were finding it difficult as to what areas we should bowl because he's an all-round cricketer, plays cricketing shots."
Prior to his injury, Gaikwad had been in scintillating white-ball form, having hit hundreds in each of the knockout games of the Vijay Hazare Trophy where Maharashtra, the team he led, finished runners-up. Gaikwad finished second on the run charts, hitting 660 runs in five innings at a strike rate of 113.59. It was also a tournament where Gaikwad blasted a List-A record when he hit seven sixes in a single over that went for 43.
He seemed to have carried the same form over into the IPL. Hardik found out in as early as the second over itself that Gaikwad was batting in a different zone, when the batter picked him for consecutive boundaries.
Hardik would come under his wheel even more, when Gaikwad launched him for consecutive sixes in the seventh over. Every other Titans bowler, barring Rashid Khan, was taken to the cleaners.
"I genuinely felt that we can't err to him at all; some of the shots that he played, they weren't to bad balls," Hardik said. "They were actually good balls, that made the big difference and more challenging for us as a bowling unit and captain. Full credit to him, if he continues batting like this, he's going to do wonders to Indian cricket. I'm sure he has the game, when the time comes I'm sure the Indian cricket team will also back him enough."
Stephen Fleming, the Super Kings coach, has seen Gaikwad from close quarters for four seasons now. He was signed in 2019, but only broke through in 2020 and started getting an extended run following a vacancy at the top with Shane Watson's retirement.
"He's an outstanding talent, really untapped," Fleming said. "We rate him so highly, when you see him playing like that, he's a class player. He's got power, got touch and only good things will happen to him. Tonight was an exhibition. He was disappointed [to be dismissed for 92], he could've picked on a little more to give us an extra 20 runs in the end but the 90 runs he got was a pleasure to watch."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo