'He has got some excellent leadership qualities': Hussey on Gaikwad as potential Dhoni replacement at CSK
Amidst speculations that he could be Chennai Super Kings' (CSK) next full-time captain in life after the great MS Dhoni, the franchise's batting mentor Michael Hussey has come out and praised Ruturaj Gaikwad's "leadership qualities".
The youngster is considered the strongest candidate to take over the mettle of captaincy from the legendary wicketkeeper-batter after IPL 2023, which, Dhoni had hinted, could be his last assignment in competitive cricket aged 41.
Near the close of IPL 2022, Dhoni had suggested he wants to end on a high in front of Chennai's passionate crowd. If that does happen, CSK, a franchise in need of fresh ideas and personnel after a disastrous campaign last season, could well go down the Ruturaj Gaikwad route.
At 25, Gaikwad has already cemented his spot in CSK's first XI with consistent performances. In what has looked an unsettled batting unit over the past three seasons, the Maharashtra and India right-hander has produced 1,207 runs since his debut in IPL 2020 at a strike rate of 130.34, averaging 37.71.
Hussey touts Gaikwad as CSK's next captain
Hussey believes Gaikwad holds similar leadership qualities to that of the mighty MS Dhoni, in that the youngster is calm and composed beyond his years and can deal with the pressure really well. Gaikwad has shown that through his CSK journey, overcoming Covid bouts and slowish tournament starts to play the linchpin to his team's batting.
"I’m not sure what the plans for the future at CSK, but like Dhoni, he is very calm," Hussey told Indian Express. "He is actually very calm when it comes to handling the pressure like Dhoni and he is a very good reader of the game."
"And as I said earlier, he is very observant and I think people are drawn to him because of his nature, character and personality and they like being around him. He has got some excellent leadership qualities," he added.
Gaikwad has been in prolific form in the ongoing domestic season for Maharashtra. The young gun hammered an unbeaten double century in the quarterfinal of the Vijay Hazare Trophy versus UP and backed that up with a superlative 168 in the semifinal against Assam this week.
Hussey said even when he is at CSK, his discussions with Gaikwad tends to revolve around the bigger picture and how he can become an India player that represents the country at the highest level for long, in that he must make each of his opportunities count and that when he is in, he must score big.
"Even when we are at CSK, the discussions have been about the bigger picture, which is India. I know the competition is tough and there are a lot of good players in India, so you have to keep scoring runs. And not 50s and 60s or just a 100."
"If you get in and make a hundred, you have to make it like 150 or 200. That is the sort of numbers you need when you have a lot of competition going around. That is what selectors will notice… not the 100s, but the big scores that will make you stand up and take notice," Hussey added.