“Be ready, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you.” These were the words conveyed by MS Dhoni to Ruturaj Gaikwad during last year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) season, planting the seeds for a future captaincy role. The veteran cricketer’s subtle hint came well before the official announcement of a leadership change on the eve of IPL 2024’s opening match between the Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bengaluru. From the onset of their prep, Dhoni has been grooming Gaikwad, involving him in match simulations and the tactical nuances of leading during practices.

Reflecting on the past year, Gaikwad recounted his interactions with Dhoni to IPLT20.com. “Last year itself, Mahi bhai had hinted about captaincy at some point of time. He just hinted that, ‘be ready, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you’. When we came into the camp, he involved me in some of the match simulation,” Gaikwad elaborated.

Further stirring speculations, MS Dhoni had teased a possible new role via a social media post approximately a week to ten days ago. It led to a buzz among fans and followers who wondered whether it indicated a brand endorsement or hinted at an upcoming shake-up within CSK’s leadership. Gaikwad acknowledged the widespread curiosity regarding the captaincy, revealing that many approached him with questions about the potential change.

“People were directing questions at me, ‘are you the next captain?’ following Dhoni’s post about a new role,” Gaikwad said. “It might have meant something else for social media, but the thought was in the back of my mind. Then he came and confirmed the decision, and now that I’m here, I’m eager to embrace this responsibility,” added the 27-year-old batsman.

Taking over the reins from a cricket icon like Dhoni comes with immense pressure, but Gaikwad expressed excitement and readiness to lead the franchise. Since his induction into CSK in 2019, Gaikwad’s rise has been impressive, albeit with a rocky start. He didn’t get a game in his debut season and began the 2020 IPL with three ducks. However, he turned a corner towards the end of that season with three successive half-centuries, setting in motion a remarkable journey. His performance crescendoed into a prolific 635-run haul in the 2021 season, winning him the coveted Orange Cap.

“It feels great for two reasons,” Gaikwad remarked on his new captaincy role. “First, for being part of this wonderful franchise since the beginning of my IPL journey, and second, to earn the trust of MS Dhoni for a leadership position. It speaks volumes. The real challenge lies ahead, and I look forward to it.”

During his tenure with CSK, Gaikwad has gained deep insights into the team’s operations throughout the year, understanding the franchise’s success mantra and the critical role of the support staff and leadership. When asked about potential changes he might bring to the team dynamic, Gaikwad was circumspect.

“I’ve learned from how the franchise functions and from Mahi bhai,” he stated. “I don’t intend to change a thing. His presence on the field is incredibly supportive, and with experienced players like Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja around, there’s no shortage of seasoned perspectives. My objective is to ensure the players have the freedom they need—that should suffice.”

As the IPL 2024 campaign commences, all eyes will be on Ruturaj Gaikwad as he steps into a new role under the tutelage of MS Dhoni. His skills, both as a batsman and as a leader, will be pivotal in guiding the Super Kings to their potential triumphs in the matches to come.

By IPL Agent

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