Stephen Fleming says India have an “absolute superstar” in their midst after the emergence of Ruturaj Gaikwad in Chennai Super Kings’ Indian Premier League title win.
Gaikwad finished the disrupted season as the leading run-scorer, after Chennai had lifted the trophy for the fourth time following their win over Kolkata Knight Riders in Dubai on Friday night.
His success this campaign marked a stark contrast to what went on the previous season in the UAE.
Back in 2020, Chennai’s preparations were undermined by an outbreak of Covid within their tour party in Dubai.
Gaikwad was worst affected. His recovery from the virus was lengthy, and when he did eventually return to the playing field, his returns were poor. Chennai, too, limped out of the competition without making the playoffs for the first time in their history.
This season, though, has been a triumph for Gaikwad. He scored 635 runs in all, and his coach, Fleming, said the 24-year-old opener’s form had been a key reason for the title win.
“He is an absolute superstar already in my eyes,” Fleming said.
“If you look back to when we introduced him last year, people were a little bit critical. He had such high tabs and expectations on him.
“What we didn’t understand was the effect Covid would have. We really felt for him last year, and are really delighted he finished off the season so well.
“He is a wonderful kid, and I think he is an absolute superstar. In terms of his craft this year, he mastered opening the batting.
“With him and Faf [du Plessis] scoring so many runs, that is one of the reasons we won the IPL. I couldn’t be more happy for him.
“He is a wonderful guy. For a young player, his maturity is beyond his years. I can’t speak any more highly of Ruturaj.”
Fleming was not alone in being a Kiwi coach lavishing praise on an Indian opener for a breakout year in the IPL.
Chennai Super Kings win IPL
Fleming’s former New Zealand teammate Brendon McCullum was the vanquished coach in the other dugout at the Dubai International Stadium.
When he went, so did Kolkata’s hopes of chasing the 193 they needed to win.
Iyer had not played before the league was suspended because of the surge in Covid cases in India back in May. At that point, Kolkata were second last in the table, having won just two games from seven.
Fuelled by Iyer’s form at the top of the order, they made a run all the way to the final, only to fall 27 runs short against four-time champions Chennai.
“Venkatesh Iyer has been a quite incredible story,” McCullum said.
“Looking back, he was actually going to play the next game when we were in India. In a funny way, the break came at a good time there.
“It gave him the opportunity to get another couple of months under his belt to understand his opportunities weren’t too far away.
“It was just a matter of him bringing the game he owns – the Venkatesh Iyer gameplan – to the table.
“He is a tall man, a big presence, and he plays the game with a cavalier streak. It is so important he holds on to that, because he will be challenged to change his methods at times, too, because he might not be the most consistent because of his flamboyancy.
“I hope he remains the Venkatesh Iyer we have seen so far. He has a ginormous future in this game.”