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

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

‘Did he do it again? Oh my…that’s the thing about him. When he gets going he is such a great player you find it hard to stop,” says Hussey as a matter of fact, having seen the player up close at Chennai Super Kings where he is the batting coach.

As Maharashtra set foot in the Vijay Hazare Trophy finals for the first time in their history, Gaikwad was again setting records. After hitting 16 sixes in the quarter-final against Uttar Pradesh, his 168 against Assam on Wednesday at Narendra Modi Stadium was his 11th ton in the tournament – the highest with Robin Uthappa. And his seventh century in nine Vijay Hazare Trophy games since last season. Four of them have over 150 scores, something Hussey thinks will help him beat the rest when it comes 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 many good players in India, so you have to keep scoring points. And not 50s and 60s or just 100. If you get in and make a hundred, you have to make it 150 or 200. That’s the kind of numbers you need when there’s a lot of competition. That’s what selectors will notice… not the 100s, but the big scores that make you stand out and stand out,” Hussey told The Indian Express.

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

“That’s part of the journey, I think,” Hussey said of players waiting for the selectors’ call. “Some guys get a chance early in their career, some take it longer and many don’t get it at all. From my experience, I just loved playing. So it doesn’t matter who you play against – Western Australia, a County team or Maharashtra – it doesn’t matter. You just have to enjoy who you play against and score as many points as possible because that will develop you as a player. It will get you through all kinds of situations and circumstances and you will come out better. The best classroom is in the middle and you should spend as much time there as possible because you will only grow. So when an opportunity arises and you come across a situation, you’re prepared to know how to handle it,” Hussey said.

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

During his playing days, Hussey was referred to as Mr Cricket due to his obsession with talking about the game even off the pitch. It is a trait that the former Australian player, who had a decorated career with Chennai Super Kings, has been done away with as batting coach, as talking too much about the game may not help players to switch off. Of course, the bond between the two has also led to Hussey discussing other things with Gaikwad.

We just talk a lot,” Hussey admits. “Over the years we have built a relationship where we have also started talking about things other than cricket. As a coach you have to do that to get a player to retire and he is a very observant person. He observes many players in the team and even in the opposition, which is an excellent quality. He is obviously keeping a close eye on Dhoni. And the other impressive thing about him is that he picks up things that other players don’t pick up on very easily. He is a self-made cricketer and of course you need help with that and he is quite good at picking up new things from other players,” said Hussey.

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

From seeing a young Gaikwad reluctant to talk to older players to being an eager lad finally seeing the world after spending over 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 mind.

There is talk of how Chennai Super Kings are preparing for the captaincy role when the final situation arrives and Hussey believes Gaikwad has the leadership qualities within him.

“I’m not sure what the plans are 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 can read the game very well and as I said before he is very observant and I think people are attracted to him because of his nature, character and personality and they enjoy being around him. He has some excellent leadership qualities,” said Hussey.

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