Wed, 06 Dec 2023

Chennai (Tamil Nadu) [India], October 1 (ANI): Indian batter Ruturaj Gaikwad cannot wait to return to Chepauk stadium and play there for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023, a venue where it all started for him.

Since COVID-19, IPL had to continue without its usual home-and-away format, taking place behind closed doors in UAE in 2020. In 2021, it was suspended midway due to the pandemic and shifted to UAE once again. In 2022, 74 matches were held across Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata and Ahmedabad.

However, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) believes that the tournament will go back to its normal home and away format next year, which means CSK could also make its return to its fortress.

Gaikwad has been in Chennai for the last week or so, where he represented India A against New Zealand A. He had a solid outing for India A, scoring 228 runs in 4 innings in Test, including a century and fifty. In the white-ball series that followed, he scored 71 across two matches, with the best score of 41. India clinched both the Test and ODI series.

While Gaikwad has been a part of CSK since 2019, he only got to play for the side in 2020 and still has not experienced the thrill of playing in front of a roaring, all-yellow home crowd in Chepauk stadium.

"I had seen the atmosphere, I had seen the electrifying noise. I have experienced everything. So, obviously that was going on in mind when I would practise for two days [with India A in Chennai]. I was imagining the crowd and CSK entering the stadium. So actually, I am just waiting for the moment. But the first time when I played here was actually special because I feel this is the place where I started my journey. Coming to CSK and getting to learn a lot of things, getting to know the first experience of what it is at the higher level. So this is the place where it all started," ESPNCricinfo quoted the batter as saying in a video posted by the IPL franchise.

Super Kings is not only a highly-popular side due to fans in Chepauk, but it has also exploited the spin-friendly pitches here. The side will be looking forward to doing the same next year when the league kicks off again.

Pacer Shardul Thakur, who also represented India A in the series, was also hit by nostalgia. Having represented the franchise for four seasons, he was picked up by Delhi Capitals in the 2022 IPL auction. He signed off from the team as their leading wicket-taker in the 2021 season.

"It feels really great, I mean, the moment I entered the stadium, it felt all nostalgic. Yes, I have had my times with CSK, I have played a few games here, but even before that, I have played Ranji [Trophy] games. 2010 was my first game here in Chepauk. The stadium and the ground have changed a lot since then but I would say the weather is still the same. [It is an] amazing experience, I would always look forward to playing in Chepauk whenever there is an opportunity," said Shardul.

The Chennai crowd was also very welcoming to India A team. The first ODI had around 200 spectators, but as days went by, the number grew to 2,000 seeing some of India's brightest stars pulling off a clean sweep, cheering every time Shardul picked up a wicket, chanting "CSK" "CSK" at every piece of good fielding or cover drive by Gaikwad.

"Obviously, I have known him for quite a few years. Thakur said about Gaikwad. "I actually remember someone telling me about him in 2017. Then, I saw him doing well in the domestic circuit and then India A, and then he came into the CSK set-up. Seeing him do so well, and when he got his real opportunity, I mean when he played a full season in the IPL, he straightaway made a mark [scoring 635 runs in 16 innings]. He had played a few games in 2020 but he played a couple of games in the middle order and opened in one of the games.""It was not a very kind stint towards him. But, in 2021, he made a mark from game one till the finals. He was the top performer of CSK, and he actually delivered to everyone's expectations. It is good to see when a youngster comes and delivers for the team and straightaway makes the mark in lifting the trophy I would say - not only in the league phase or knockouts but to lift the trophy," Thakur concluded. (ANI)

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