Cricket is big in India because it has a huge fandom rooting for their favourite players and passionately so. However, would you say that convincingly in this now and age? The rise of social media and a resultant short attention span has crippled the following to a box of hit-or-miss phenomena. The rise of every rookie is hyped up to a great extent, only to see a couple of failures being touted as the end of the road.
Fair to say, expecting objectivity from every fan is a fruitless exercise. Particularly in IPL, where city-based loyalty has taken over like wildfire, it probably has done enough commercial enterprise to latch onto, but at what expense? Young cricketers have to go through tough periods of existential crisis thanks to the muddled nature of modern-day cricket. We have contributed to that.
Before going ahead further - here is a disclaimer. This column doesn’t intend to demean the fans nor do wish a lack of passionate involvement of Indian cricket fans who have made the crux of the sport for as long as our generation can remember. But watching the way Ruturaj Gaikwad plays some of his shots and the assurance with which he bats, one could fundamentally wish for a world where talents like him are preserved and don’t have to go through the motions of swinging demands of the world.
Gaikwad is a talented youngster. He doesn’t need to put a mask of fearlessness or any sort of coping mechanism required at the highest level because he already has high levels of skills that automatically translate to runs. From his limited appearances in IPL and international cricket, he has shown a mind good enough to assess the situations and used that to a great extent to produce runs at a stellar consistency.
Sunday’s innings was in fact a continuation of a little story that began in the Emirates last year when he scored three consecutive fifties to help CSK salvage pride. He churned out runs in the first leg earlier this year and now, an India-capped player, he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. That is half the battle won.
While we understand and appreciate Gaikwad, it should be remembered that Chennai Super Kings are a solid franchise. They are process-driven and the result is an outcome. Unlike, say a franchise like RCB or PBKS, who run in a reverse fashion, CSK back their in-flow and more often than not, stay true to their devised plans. Of course, it helps that they have a successful leader like MS Dhoni at the helm but more than his presence, the internalization of the very ideology by a single member of the squad is the foundation on which their success stories are built. Rututaj Gaikwad is a fantastic example of the same.
However, at the time of success, we need to draw the line. Like many umpteen youngsters using the IPL platform to succeed, players like Gaikwad, Venkatesh Iyer, or Ravi Bishnoi would go through the motions and will taste their own shares of failure. They need to do this because that’s the quickest way to learn and unlearn many fundamentals of their craft, keeping them in line with the sporting evolution. But more than them, if cricket fans can understand the very idea and don’t let those few mishits dictate the course, it would be gift players would hold forever.
When Gaikwad made his IPL debut in 2020, his first three innings read 0, 5, and 0, and his ability was greatly questioned. He was trolled incessantly and was quick to be written off. He came back, scored a lot of runs and everything changed soon after. That’s why it is such a fickle business to be in. We need to talk about this because when he fails - and that’s inevitable - cricket fans need to be okay with that.
IPL has contributed massively to the sporting ecosystem but the toxicity it has generated over the years can’t be underestimated. To make the sporting world a fairer place for everyone, let’s be the flagbearer of empathy - rejoice in the success but be a greater person in failure. Step by step, and it should begin from now.