Gaikwad was eloquent as he tried to explain the difficulties of a batter adapting to the demands of red ball cricket, especially given how we live in a time when white ball skills seep into players’ muscle memory.
“It’s like you’re used to that kind of bat flow where your bat naturally flows to all the shots you want to play in T20 cricket,” he said. “You have to be ready for every ball and have three specific options in your head for every ball. Then all of a sudden you get into red ball cricket where you don’t really have to look for runs, you have to focus on staying on the wicket.
“The first thing you need to do here, go from white to red (ball), is to stop that instinct and just try to focus on your breathing, ball by ball, session by session and try to play through the day. to your base, like playing under your head, keeping your shoulder aligned, if the ball is really outside your right eye [as a right-hander] then leave it alone. This base comes into play for red ball cricket.”
Technique is just one area of focus for a player of all sizes. “After playing a lot of cricket, the mind has a lot of thoughts and it keeps flowing in all directions and a lot of inputs come in,” said Gaikwad. “It’s very important to be focused and know your own game how to channel it into different formats.”
Although he is known for his exploits as an opener in white ball cricket, Gaikwad was happy to take the number 3 role in this India A side.
“I think even in the first division, while I play for my state” [Maharashtra]”Usually when we tend to play an extra batter, I play at three,” he said. “When we play an extra bowler, I open the at bat. The role has always been flexible. And of course both Priyank [Panchal] and Abhimanyu [Easwaran] are experienced and have been opening the innings for a long time, so they deserve to be there (opening). I’m used to this (number 3) role, so not much has changed or different.”
Scoring a century for India A against a quality attack on a bowler friendly field is an achievement. However, Gaikwad was not in the mood to celebrate. He was disappointed to fall for 108 when he was looking for an even bigger score. And that feeling only got worse as New Zealand A built on the breakthrough, taking the last six wickets for just 48 runs and looking his way for 293.
“I had a very good chance of making a big one,” said Gaikwad. “Not just for myself but I felt like staying on the wicket today would have been very crucial for us as a team. It would have been a different scenario if I had been there. And maybe I would have been 40-50 added -60 runs with the tail tomorrow and the total would have been very different. Big (disappointment) for me personally and even for the team as I think we are definitely 50-60 runs short.”
Gaikwad made his international debut in 2021 and was recently part of a pair of Indian squads. Gaikwad keeps the fire to play at the highest level. But for now, he’s just focused on what’s right in front of him.
“Whether it’s a domestic game or another game, the focus and approach should be the same. There’s no personal agenda in that,” he said. “Whatever the team situation, you have to make sure you adapt to it as soon as possible. Make sure you do what is asked of you. Whether it is Ranji Trophy, India A, IPL or the international team, the role depends on what the team needs. You have to keep the team first.”
This 27-year old batter is excited about the prospect of a full season for the domestic and Ranji Trophy. He hopes it will be a nice challenge for him.
Afzal Jiwani is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo Hindi. @jiwani_afzal