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‘When Gaikwad gets going, it’s hard to stop … He is calm like Dhoni, has leadership qualities’: Mike Hussey, Australian legend, praises Ruturaj Gaikwad

There are talks of how Chennai Super Kings are grooming him for the captaincy role when the eventual situation arrives and Hussey believes Gaikwad has got the leadership qualities in him.

Ruturaj-GaikwadMS Dhoni and Ruturaj Gaikwad in action during the IPL. (BCCI/IPL)

There is an element of surprise in Mike Hussey’s tone when it’s mentioned that Ruturaj Gaikwad followed up his maiden List-A double century with a 168 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy semifinals for Maharashtra.

“Did he again? Oh my… that is the thing about him. When he gets going, he is such a wonderful player that you find it hard to stop,” Hussey says like a matter of fact, who has seen the player up close at Chennai Super Kings where he is the batting coach.

As Maharashtra set their foot in the Vijay Hazare Trophy finals for the first time in their history, Gaikwad was on another record-making spree. After hitting 16 sixes in the quarterfinal against Uttar Pradesh, his 168 against Assam at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Wednesday was his 11th ton in the tournament – the joint-highest with Robin Uthappa. And his seventh century in nine Vijay Hazare Trophy matches since last season. Four of them have been 150-plus scores, something Hussey believes will help him edge out the rest should it come down between two players.

“Even when we are at CSK, the discussions have been about the bigger picture, which is India. I know the competition is tough and there are a lot of good players in India, so you have to keep scoring runs. And not 50s and 60s or just a 100. If you get in and make a hundred, you have to make it like 150 or 200. That is the sort of numbers you need when you have a lot of competition going around. That is what selectors will notice… not the 100s, but the big scores that will make you stand up and take notice,” Hussey told The Indian Express.

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While there is no immediate reward for Gaikwad as he failed to make the ODI cut for the tour of Bangladesh, India have series against New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Australia lined up early next year. With Shubman Gill in the pecking order, it remains to be seen how the new selection committee will fit in Gaikwad, who has made a strong case for his inclusion in the team.

“That is part of the journey I guess,” Hussey said of players’s waiting for the call from the selectors. “Some guys get an opportunity early in their career, for some it takes longer, and many don’t get it at all. From my experience, I just loved playing. So no matter who you are playing — be it Western Australia or a County team or Maharashtra — it doesn’t matter. You just have to enjoy who you are playing against and score as many runs as possible because that is going to develop you as a player. It will put you through all sorts of situations and conditions and you are going to come out better. The best classroom is in the middle and you have to spend as much time as you can in there as you are only going to grow. So when an opportunity comes and you come across a situation, you are prepared to know how to handle it,” Hussey said.

The senior Gaikwad said that the way Ruturaj played Sunday showed that his confidence was back. (BCCI/IPL)

During his playing days, Hussey was referred to as Mr Cricket due to his obsession to talk about the game even off the field. It is a trait, the former Australian player, who had a decorated career with Chennai Super Kings, has got rid off as a batting coach, as talking too much about the game may not help players switch off. Of course, the bonding between the two has also meant Hussey discusses other things with Gaikwad.

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We just talk a lot,” Hussey admits. “Through the years we have developed a relationship where we have also started talking things other than cricket. As a coach you got to do that to make a player switch off and he is a very observing person. He observes a lot of players in the team and even in the opposition, which is an excellent trait. He obviously watches Dhoni very closely. And the other impressive thing about him is he picks up things that other players don’t pick up that quickly. He is a self-made cricketer and obviously you need help along the way and he is quite good at picking up new things from other players,” Hussey said.

Ruturaj Gaikwad of Chennai Super Kings. (BCCI/IPL)

From the time he saw a young Gaikwad reluctant to speak to senior players to being an enthusiastic lad to finally see the world after spending more than a month in quarantine, Hussey has seen the opener grow from strength-to-strength. The sight of Gaikwad sweetly timing the ball, in the first net session he had after spending around 32 days in quarantine during the 2020 edition of the IPL in the UAE is still fresh in Hussey’s memory.

There are talks of how Chennai Super Kings are grooming for the captaincy role when the eventual situation arrives and Hussey believes Gaikwad has got the leadership qualities in him.

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“I’m not sure what the plans for the future at CSK, but like Dhoni, he is very calm. He is actually very calm when it comes to handling the pressure like Dhoni and he is a very good reader of the game and as I said earlier, he is very observant and I think people are drawn to him because of his nature, character and personality and they like being around him. He has got some excellent leadership qualities,” Hussey said.

First published on: 01-12-2022 at 15:51 IST
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