At the end of each domestic season, we have a player or two emerge from the anonymity and shine brightly. The 2016/17 season was no different.
One of the most noteworthy youngsters who managed to attract eyeballs this season was Ruturaj Gaikwad, the 20-year-old batsman from Maharashtra.
While it may sound exciting to see another young talent emerge, the right-handed batsmen, in his short but eventful first class career, has experienced struggle, pain, recovery and stellar success all at the same in a matter of just a few months.
He made everyone take a note of him with his stunning performances in the Vijay Hazare trophy playing for his state. The showings at the Vijay Hazare, where he ended as the third highest run-getter with 444 runs in 7 matches at an average of 63.42, gained him the biggest headline of his career as he was drafted into the India A side for the Deodhar Trophy as the replacement for injured Rohit Sharma.
The fact that the cricketer with minimal first class experience was trusted with the role of replacing a player of Rohit Sharma’s calibre speaks for the reputation he has managed to earn in such a short span of time.
Born in Pune, Ruturaj grew up with his family of four that includes his father Dashrath Gaikwad, mother Savita Gaikwad and a sister.
In a recent chat with Sportzwiki, the youngster takes us through his early life, cricketing journey, bumpy road to recognition and his goals for the future.
How did cricket become a part of your life, what motivated you to pick this sport?
I picked the sport myself. When I was 4-5 years old I started playing with the leather ball but there was not proper guidance. I took up the sport professionally at the age of 12 when I joined Vengsarkar Cricket Academy. The coaches at the academy have played a big role in by development, especially during the U-19 years.
No much is known about your cricketing background, can you tell us about it?
I have been playing for Maharashtra since U-14s and U-16s but didn’t do anything noteworthy. But, in my second U-19 year, that is when I was 18, I was the second highest run scorer in India in the 2014-15 Cooch Behar Trophy with 826 runs in 6 matches with three centuries and one fifty. This helped me get selected in the India U-19 probable list. I did well in the next year’s Cooch Behar trophy as well and was the second highest in India with 875 runs in 7 matches with four hundred and three fifties.
Who has been the biggest influence in your cricketing career so far?
Actually, till the age of 15-16 I did not follow anyone specifically but in the past 2-3 years, I have started to admire Virat Kohli a lot. I admire him by his consistency and want to be a match winner for my team like him. This is one of the reasons I enjoyed success in the last 2-3 years.
How do you describe yourself as a batsman – aggressive or accumulator?
None of the two. I like to adapt situation wise or do what the team demands. I opened the innings for Maharashtra for the first time. I had been opening for my academy but was never a regular opener. In the u-19s I batted at number 4 position usually. Even in my debut Ranji match, I batted at No. 3.
How do you look back at 2016 – the positives and the negatives?
2016 had both highs and lows for me. For example, I got injured in the first innings of my Ranji debut itself. Actually in the first 15 balls. We were facing Jharkhand in Delhi in our first match and I got hit on the tip of my index finger by Varun Aaron’s rising delivery. Later, the x-ray revealed it was a serious fracture which required me to undergo a surgery. I had to rest for 8 weeks and missed out whole Ranji season as a result. Then I pulled myself back and did my best in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
How much did Kedar Jadhav’s presence as the skipper helped you as a newbie in the Maharashtra side?
It was great. He was impressed on my batting he praised me a lot which was a boost for me and I learnt a lot from him. Like how to handle situations, which bowlers to target. It was great to watch him dominate the bowlers from the other end.
What do you feel went wrong in the 4th quarter final against Bengal? You lost despite having 300 plus runs on the board?
Our strength was to bat first and we chose to do that exactly. But I think we didn’t have much-experienced bowling attack. It was only Shrikant Mundhe who was experienced in the bowling department. It was a very young and inexperienced side. Only the likes of Kedar Jadhav, Ankit Bawne had a good number of matches under their belt. Rest others had minimum experience. And, believe me, no one expected from this team to win 6 out of 5 matches in the league stages. We also defeated Tamil Nadu, the strongest side during the early stages.
2017 is going to be a huge year for you. What are your plans? Have you set any specific goals?
“I don’t set any targets. In fact, I don’t like do that. All I do is to go match by match and make sure I contribute in every match for my team, whichever team I play.”
Do you regret not being a part of the IPL?
“Not really. But, I would like to be a part of it definitely as it offers great exposure.”
Every cricketer has the ultimate dream of playing for his country. What is your roadmap to achieve the India dream?
“Yes, I would like to play for India but as I said I don’t set goals and not even targets. I know if I score consistently then I will get a chance. And, if I get the opportunity, I’ll make sure I stay consistent at that level. The ultimate goal is to stay consistent.”