Emerging from Dhoni’s Shadows – Gaikwad’s Journey to Carve His Own Legacy

Dhoni congratulating Gaikwad for his composed knock against KKR. (Source: BCCI)

In the lead-up to the season opener, Ruturaj Gaikwad found himself confronted with one of the most formidable challenges in the IPL: assuming leadership of the Chennai Super Kings. Unlike many of its counterparts, CSK boasts a deep-rooted dependence on the enduring legacy of its former captain, MS Dhoni. Thus, stepping into Dhoni’s illustrious role presented Gaikwad with a daunting task, compounded by the weighty expectations and traditions associated with the franchise.

For years, Dhoni’s leadership on and off the field has been synonymous with CSK’s success. Under his stewardship, the team has clinched five IPL titles and established itself as one of the most dominant franchises in the league. Dhoni’s astute cricketing brain, calm demeanor under pressure, and knack for making tactical masterstrokes have endeared him to fans worldwide and elevated him to the status of a cricketing icon.

Also Read: Jadeja brilliance hands KKR first defeat

Having been entrusted with the responsibility of leading a prestigious franchise like CSK, inevitably, the pressure is bound to mount. After taking over from MSD, Gaikwad had a mixed start as captain, with two wins and two losses. However, the 27-year-old remained unfazed with back-to-back losses. When questioned about bouncing back from the consecutive defeats in the last two games, the CSK skipper remarked that the team is not dwelling on past results but focusing on the task at hand. Each time Gaikwad faces tough questions, he appears to adopt a Dhoni-esque approach in replying.

The burden of captaincy appeas to have affected Gaikwad’s batting, evident in his modest tally of 88 runs across four innings this season. Of greater concern than his average of 22 was his strike rate of 118.9, placing him among the tournament’s five slowest batters (min. 50 balls faced). This scenario mirrored Ravindra Jadeja’s experience in 2022 when he assumed the captaincy, ultimately relinquishing it and reinstating Dhoni. While four matches may seem insufficient for conclusive judgment, speculation arose: Would Gaikwad follow in Jadeja’s footsteps?

Yet, Gaikwad silenced doubters with a commanding response. In his fifth match as captain, he orchestrated a composed half-century, guiding his team to victory without losing his wicket, emulating his predecessor’s approach. His innings exuded calmness and responsibility, adapting to the challenging pitch conditions that favored timing over power-hitting. The absence of pressure from the required run rate allowed Gaikwad to construct his innings methodically, notwithstanding criticism of his strike rate of 115.52 by T20 pundits.

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Gaikwad’s strategic approach paid dividends as his team emerged victorious. Echoing Dhoni’s philosophy of prioritising wins over net run rate in the IPL’s lengthy format, Gaikwad focused on securing victory before concerning himself with run rate implications. Batting at the top, he demonstrated a mature understanding of his role, assuming the mantle of responsibility akin to Dhoni’s leadership style. It was fitting that after scoring the bulk of his team’s runs, Gaikwad delivered the winning runs, a symbolic passing of the torch orchestrated by Dhoni.
Gaikwad’s calm and collected demeanour in the way he has carried himself as captain so far this season is reminiscent of Dhoni himself.

CSK acquired him before the IPL 2019 season. Initially, he didn’t feature in any games that year and had a slow start in 2020. However, the team stood by him, and they have both benefited from their patience. He clinched the Orange cap in 2021, and his contributions played a vital role in securing two titles for the team. Now, he aims to extend the same support he received over the years to others.

Of course, Gaikwad’s journey to emerge from Dhoni’s shadows is far from over, and he faces numerous challenges along the way. As the IPL season progresses and the pressure mounts, Gaikwad will be tested in way. However, if his early performances are anything to go by, he possesses the temperament, skill, and determination to lead CSK to greater heights and establish himself as a leader in his own right.

Gaikwad’s ascent as the captain of CSK represents a new chapter in the franchise’s storied history. While Dhoni’s legacy will always be revered, Gaikwad’s emergence signals the beginning of a new era—a testament to the spirit of reinvention and renewal that defines the world of cricket.

Also Read: Shubman Gill and the seamless transition to captain

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