International Cricket

IPL 2024 – CSK vs GT – Hussey on Sameer Rizvi’s first-ball six off Rashid Khan – ‘That’s just crazy, isn’t it?’

The start of Chennai Super Kings’ transition has been smooth with Ruturaj Gaikwad leading the team to back-to-back wins in IPL 2024 after MS Dhoni had handed over the captaincy to him. Gaikwad has been rifling through fielding changes, working closely with his predecessor Dhoni on the field and head coach Stephen Fleming off it. Michael Hussey, CSK’s batting coach, is pleased with how Gaikwad has managed the team so far.
“I think he’s been fantastic,” Hussey said after CSK thumped Gujarat Titans by 63 runs at Chepauk on Tuesday. “He’s very well prepared. Him, Flem, MSD – they get together and they talk tactics before the game. But I think the way Rutu changes the bowlers around… the fields are very good. He seems very clear. The messaging to the bowlers is very clear as well.

“So I think he’s taking to the job brilliantly at the moment; I know he’s got some good support around him but he’s a very smart guy and a very cricket-savvy guy, you know; he understands the game well. He’s got a good team to work with as well, which helps as well, but I think he’s been fantastic so far.”

Gaikwad’s new opening partner Rachin Ravindra has seamlessly slotted into the team, in Devon Conway’s injury-enforced absence. Ravindra hit 37 off 15 balls against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the season-opener and followed it up with a similarly punchy 46 off 20 balls against Titans.

“He’s just trying to soak up as much knowledge as he possibly can,” Hussey said of Ravindra. “I think he really feeds off the crowd a bit as well. And yeah, once you’ve got a couple of good shots away earlier, I think his confidence grew and he believed that ‘I can perform on this stage and grow from there.’

“I think he’s just gone out there with a clear mind and a nice positive attitude and got off to a good start. There’s not a lot to work on with these level of world-class players.”

Sameer Rizvi, who had tempted CSK into splurging INR 8.4 crore on him at the IPL 2024 auction, also grabbed eyeballs on Tuesday with a sparkling cameo. He swept the first ball he faced in the IPL, off Rashid Khan, for a six over square leg. He then boldly charged at Rashid and cleared the long-off fielder for another six, despite not middling the shot. Rizvi finished with 14 off six balls and was warmly welcomed back by his team-mates and the support staff. CSK don’t usually rush rookies into the action, but the team management was so impressed with Rizvi’s raw power during the pre-season camp that they threw him into the mix right away.

“Well, he’s got a lot of natural ability and natural hitting ability,” Hussey said. “We’ve seen it at practice, you know, especially against the spinners. I mean, he can hit a long way and he can hit the ball very cleanly.

“But it’s still a big ask for a young player to come in for his first IPL game against arguably the best T20 bowler of all time in Rashid Khan and hit the first ball that you face for six. I mean, that’s just crazy, isn’t it? So we’re very excited for him.

“He was excited to play, especially here at Chepauk, with such a great crowd. And I think that’s the great thing about youth, they have no fear so they can come out and just play with that complete freedom, right? It was also a bit of a masterstroke from the think tank as well. Because I think we’re all expecting MSD to come out and play those last sort of a few balls. But they realised that he [Rizvi] has got some natural power against spin and that’s why they wanted to send the youngster out. And, you know, he delivered two sixes at the end which was great for his confidence.”

Batting depth all the way down to No.10 and the Impact Player rule have contributed to CSK batting with hyper-aggression and aiming for above-par totals. Hussey said the team management wouldn’t be critical of players who get dismissed while adopting that approach.

“It’s definitely been a directive from Fleming to keep pushing the game forward,” Hussey said. “With the Impact Player rule coming in, we’ve got basically an extra batsman and an extra bowler throughout the game. So the batting order keeps lengthening. I think we’ve got MSD at No.8. Which is crazy, you know, like, and MSD is batting really well at the moment as well.

“So, because we’ve got so much depth in our resources there, it means the players up the order [aren’t] in in two minds, take the positive route and they’ll certainly have the backing from the coaches and the captain that we’d prefer you to keep trying to push the game forward. If you get out while doing so, that’s fine. You’ll never be criticised for that. Flem’s talk is about playing fast. We want to keep playing fast.”

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