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Match Analysis

Ruturaj Gaikwad uses timing to boss middle-overs battle against Umran Malik

The opener's assault against the fastest bowler in IPL 2022 changed the complexion of the game

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
Ruturaj Gaikwad doesn't have the big frame of Kieron Pollard. Nor does he possess the bulging biceps of Andre Russell. He has a "six-pack" but he doesn't muscle the ball. And on Sunday, against Sunrisers Hyderabad, he showed he need not, as he took down Umran Malik - the fastest bowler in IPL 2022 - with sheer timing.
The pitch for the game in Pune was slightly on the slower side, but this being Gaikwad's home ground, he knew that once he got his eye in, things would become easier.
He started slowly. At the end of five overs, he was on a run-a-ball 18. After he reached 90, he slowed down again, scoring only nine runs off the last seven balls he faced. In between, though, he smashed 72 off 32 balls, his onslaught against Malik changing the complexion of the game.
Chennai Super Kings were 47 for no loss after seven overs when Kane Williamson gave the ball to Malik. Most teams turn to their spinners to control the middle overs but Sunrisers rely on Malik's pace. His 12 wickets are the most by a seamer in overs 7 to 16 this season.
However, Gaikwad decided to take Malik on. On the fast bowler's very first ball, he skipped down the track, and even though he didn't get the timing right, he got enough on it to clear mid-off for a couple of runs.
But then, as if a switch was flicked. Two balls later, Malik bowled one short outside off. Gaikwad stood tall and slapped him over covers for four. The next ball was fuller around off. Gaikwad wasn't caught on the back foot. He planted his front foot forward and punched it over long-on for a six.
Malik is an out-and-out fast bowler. He rarely bowls a slower one, but here he tried that variation too. Gaikwad was up to it, though, and dabbed it towards backward point with little fuss.
The best was yet to come. In his next over, Malik bowled a 154kph thunderbolt - the fastest delivery of IPL 2022 yet - only for Gaikwad to drive it on the up towards long-on, where a misfield gifted him a boundary. That was followed by a top-edged four, which took him to a 34-ball half-century.
Sunrisers were also handicapped by the absence of Washington Sundar, who once again hurt the webbing on his right hand while trying to prevent a boundary. T Natarajan too had a niggle, for which he was off the field for quite some time and, therefore, was allowed to bowl only towards the end of the innings.
This resulted in Aiden Markram bowling to a well-set Gaikwad, who lined him up for back-to-back sixes. Gaikwad's all-out attack meant despite Devon Conway languishing on 29 off 28 balls, Super Kings reached 100 inside 11 overs.
Then came, arguably, the shot of the match. In the next over, the 12th of the innings, Malik pitched one fuller. Gaikwad took a short stride forward and extended his arms to drive it over mid-off. Such was the timing that the ball sailed all the way.
In all, he took 33 off 13 balls against Malik, without playing a shot in anger. All he did was maintain his shape, and convert timing into power.
"I thought the wicket was a little bit slow, and he provided the right pace [to bat against]," Gaikwad said of his attack against Malik. "So I just tried to put him under pressure right from his first over."
"I don't like to believe in form because in every game, you start from zero. Irrespective of whatever you have scored in the last game, you have to start again"
Ruturaj Gaikwad
He eventually fell for 99 off 57 balls, and while Sunrisers did manage to pull things back somewhat at the death, his innings had already set up the win for Super Kings.
This is Gaikwad's third IPL season. In 2020, he had scores of 0, 5 and 0 in his first three outings before notching up three successive half-centuries. In 2021, he started with 5, 5 and 10 and still finished as the leading run-scorer for the season. This year, it was 0, 0 and 1 and now he has scores of 73 and 99 among his last four knocks.
To outsiders, it might feel as if he has a magic wand to turn his form around. But the man himself had an even interesting take.
"Personally, I don't like to believe in form," he told Star Sports, "because in every game, you start from zero. Irrespective of whatever you have scored in the last game, you have to start again. I believe in that, I believe in starting from zero in each and every game. That's what has helped."

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo