Despite losing out on bringing Faf du Plessis back to the CSK fold, the four-time champions have been shrewd enough to find another potent opening partner for Ruturaj Gaikwad this season. On a day that he and Devon Conway took their tally of fifty-run partnerships past that of Gaikwad and Du Plessis, the Indian opener reckoned he has had a role reversal in this alliance.
“I think in 2021, if you look, Faf had many 30s, 40s or 50s and he would just get out after 50s, and I mostly managed to score 70s, 80s and 100. So I think when someone is attacking from the other end, you just have to make sure you stay till the 15th over,” Gaikwad said.
The role this season, however, has switched as Gaikwad has been the batter to take more risks while Conway has typically batted long. The difference has been stark for Gaikwad, who has upped his strike rate – going from 138.20 in 2021 to 146.88 this season. Unlike in 2021, he’s also faced far fewer deliveries than his opening partner. The change of intent has also been triggered by the introduction of the impact player rule that has lengthened batting line-ups and placed a demand for more risk-taking. In such a scenario, Conway has come as the ideal partner at the top.
“This year I just felt that with the impact player rule, I had a good practice session about that mentality [playing shots early on and taking risks] as well for good 15-20 days. So I think when I thought I was going really well, I knew that Conway would stay till the 15th over or just carry the innings till the 20th over. So I think I had the confidence in him just like Faf had in me in 2021,” Gaikwad said, doffing his hat to Conway for how well he has taken to the IPL straightaway.
“I think this year, thankfully and touchwood, Conway has been batting really well… he has been carrying the innings till 15th over, so for me it has been really easy to have that free mindset, keep up the intent knowing that if I get out a right-hander would be coming in (Rahane) and the right-hand-left-hand combination will carry on. So I think you sort of have trust in your partner and that is what happened this year,” he added.
Just nine evenings ago at home, KKR outspun CSK in a game where neither of the two lasted the distance and the CSK innings just didn’t take off. That outing triggered recalibration and conversations around their batting as they turned up much better on a bigger night in the first qualifier.
“I would say after the KKR game, we just had a discussion that if we play in Chennai again, someone from the top three has to be there till 10th, 12th or 14th over so we keep on going or we just have the momentum and wickets in hand going into the last phase,” Gaikwad said.
“I think on good tracks when you have impact player rule as well, you have to keep going. But knowing that Delhi wicket [the venue for their game after KKR loss] was also slow, and if we would be qualifying, Chennai wicket is also slow, so I think somewhere one of us has to step up and one of us has to take a step back,” he added.
“I think last game Conway had a brilliant start in the PowerPlay so I was just knocking around. After powerplay we rotated strike and I said I’ll take the charge. Even today, it was my day as I was getting boundaries somehow and I thought I’ll keep going and you [Conway] keep taking singles or doubles and we’ll make sure that you stay at least till the 10th, 12th or 14th over and that’s exactly what happened.”