Ruturaj Gaikwad credits pre-season camp for CSK’s success

Ruturaj Gaikwad credits pre-season camp for CSK’s success

Chennai Super Kings’ pre-season camp at Chepauk in March-April has played a key role in their success in IPL 2023. This was Ruturaj Gaikwad‘s assessment after CSK beat Gujarat Titans on a tricky Chennai pitch to make their tenth IPL final.

Several CSK players, including Gaikwad himself, had never played an IPL game in Chennai before this season. The camp had begun on March 3, with captain MS Dhoni, Ajinkya Rahane and Ambati Rayudu among the first batch of players to have arrived in the city. Gaikwad and pace spearhead Deepak Chahar then joined the side late after completing their rehab at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru.

“[The camp was] very vital because a new surface was being laid over in Chennai,” Gaikwad said at the press conference. “Everyone was not sure how the wicket is going to be or how the wicket is going to play. But sometimes when you play on flat tracks, you need not have to think much on your shots and not much about the [opposition] bowling. Sometimes batsmen play good shots and hats off to him. Even while you’re batting, it’s about getting into the zone.

“But in Chennai, it’s slightly different. You have to alter your game according to the pitch that is given that day. Sometimes, it’s slower and sometimes it’s good [for batting]. So, I think it was good to have an idea about how it was going to play. It definitely helped me a lot personally and everyone who was there in the camp. Tushar [Deshpande] was there from the first day and also someone like Raj [Rajvardhan Hangargekar] and all the youngsters were also there from the first day, so I think it helped.”

Gaikwad credited the CSK team management for giving their players role clarity and job security. Sri Lanka mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana, for example, had picked up just one wicket in six games at Chepauk before the first qualifier, but he got another game and doubled the tally when CSK were under pressure. On Tuesday, Theekshana claimed the key wickets of Titans captain Hardik Pandya and finisher Rahul Tewatia to help CSK defend 172.

“A lot of effort [goes into our success],” Gaikwad said. “[It] started from last year when we didn’t qualify [for playoffs]. Obviously, the management got something to work on and there were things which we needed to improve and put an effort on, or add someone. This year, right from the first game, I think we were clinical and sure about who is going to play and who is not going to play and what will be our probable XII or XIII or XIV.

“I think right from the first game everyone knew about their roles. When the Sri Lankans came [late] – Theekshana and [Matheesha] Pathirana – I think they were up to the mark even from the first game. So, I think we were pretty much playing with the same team and just continued the momentum. And hats off to everyone – the support staff and the management as well.”

The surfaces at Chepauk haven’t offered big turn like they often did in the past. So far, seamers (51) have picked up more wickets than spinners (45) this IPL. The bigger straight boundaries at the venue have also challenged batters. Gaikwad spoke of the adjustments he had to make along with his opening partner Devon Conway, who had also never played an IPL match at Chepauk before this season.

“I think in the Delhi game, I’d say I had a slight advantage about the shorter boundary being there straight on both ends,” Gaikwad said. “So, after six overs, we [me and Devon Conway] personally felt 160-170 would be a good score, so just keep on batting until the 10th-11th over and then we thought one of us could just take some risks because we have Shivam Dube coming in, Mahi bhai coming in, Jaddu [Ravindra Jadeja] bhai coming in…a lot of big-hitters coming in.

“So, there was a slightly different game there after 10-12 overs. But in Chennai, obviously big boundaries, so you have to find the gaps and manoeurve some shots and that’s what I feel Conway has been doing well. So that’s why he has been successful.”

(With Inputs from ESPN)

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