India batter Ruturaj Gaikwad is looking forward to competing for Chennai Super Kings at the Chepauk "where it all started" for him as the IPL goes back to its traditional home-and-away format from the next season.
The IPL has been held at only a few venues since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 but with the pandemic under control, the cash-rich league will return to its old format in which each team plays one home and one away match against all teams.
Gaikwad was with the India A side for the unofficial ODIs against New Zealand A in the city, played a few days back.
"I had seen the atmosphere; I had seen the electrifying noise. I have experienced everything" Gaikwad said in video posted by CSK.
"So, obviously that was going on in mind when I would practise for two days (with India A in Chennai). I was imagining the crowd and CSK entering the stadium. So actually, I am just waiting for the moment," he added.
The opener joined CSK in 2019 but made his debut for the Yellow Army in 2020 and has thus never played at the Cheapuk with the IPL side.
"But the first time when I played here was actually special because I feel this is the place where I started my journey.
"Coming to CSK and getting to learn a lot of things, getting to know the first experience of what it is at the higher level. So, this is the place where it all started." Gaikwad’s breakthrough year came in 2021 when he finished as the highest run-getter (635 runs in 16 matches) in CSK’s triumphant campaign.
Former CSK pacer Shardul Thakur, who was also part of the recently-concluded India A series, also recalled his experience at the Chepauk.
"It feels really great, I mean, the moment I entered the stadium, it felt all nostalgic," Thakur said.
"Yes, I have had my times with CSK, I have played a few games here, but even before that, I have played Ranji (Trophy) games." Thakur was with the CSK for four seasons and was also their leading wicket-taker in IPL last year.
"2010 was my first game here in Chepauk. The stadium and the ground have changed a lot since then but I would say the weather is still the same.
"(It's an) amazing experience, I would always look forward to playing in Chepauk whenever there is an opportunity."