#WhenItMattersTheMost is one of the many hashtags that accompany Kedar Jadhav’s latest post on Instagram. The picture from Wednesday’s narrow T20 win against Zimbabwe shows the batsman playing a pull shot from his innings. The hashtag could not have been more fitting, as Jadhav seems to revel in pressure situations.
Timing, both on and off the field, is everything for a batsman. When it came to Jadhav’s off field timing, fate was playing the ball as late as possible. He made his ODI debut in November 2014, a few months shy of his 30th birthday. In a country that probably has more talented youngsters than Zimbabwe has cricketers, one has to do something special to earn a national call up at that age.
Jadhav had. He had ticked two important boxes: Long form dominance and IPL brilliance. After scoring a fifty on IPL debut in 2010, he scored his first triple century in the Ranji Trophy in the 2012-13 season . While many wrote that off as a featherbed lottery (there were four more centuries in the match), the next season he did even better.
In Ranji Trophy 2013-14, he piled on 1223 runs to become the highest scorer, and the fourth highest of all time, in a season. His effort helped Maharashtra reach the Ranji finals, defeating the defending champions Mumbai along the way. Despite losing to an ascendant Karnataka, Jadhav had made sure his name would not go unnoticed that year.
“Kedar has always had the ability to score runs in bad situations”, said Virag Awate, fellow Maharashtra Ranji cricketer who has known Jadhav for more than a decade. He attested to the fact that the knock he played in Harare is something he has seen many times before, in domestic cricket. “ He has never changed his style of play, whether he is playing a club match or a Ranji match.
There was plenty of pressure when Jadhav walked in to bat in the deciding T20. Coming in with the team struggling at 27 for three, he took his time for his first 10 balls, but then accelerated to score 48 of the next 32 balls to register a rearguard half century. Like his first and only ODI hundred, he enjoyed a reprieve early in his innings, when he was put down at cover by Hamilton Masakadza. But he grabbed the opportunity, and made sure India got a competitive total, that proved to be just enough.
Jadhav's innings was an punctuated with powerful shots square of the wicket and down the ground, including a monstrous six over long on. Former Maharashtra cricketer Hemant Kinikar, now a coach at VVS Laxman's academy in Hyderabad, has seen a this aggressive side of Jadhav before. “He lived close to my home in Pune, so I have seen him play a lot as a boy. Back then, he was playing a lot of tennis ball cricket, which has given him superb hand eye coordination." Not surprising that Jadhav admires Virender Sehwag, for whose team he made his IPL debut. He also showcased his versatility there, but taking up wicketkeeping duties. "He is a team man who can play any position. And he is an opportunist", Kinikar added.
Jadhav played a similar innings last year, when India toured Zimbabwe. After two failures in the first two ODIs, his place and international career were on the line. Add to that the fact that he walked in with the score at 82 for four. With the side struggling, he built a mammoth 144 run partnership with Manish Pandey, and made sure India had enough runs to complete a whitewash. In the process, he got his maiden ODI hundred, remaining unbeaten on 105 off 87 balls.
Surendra Bhave, former India selector and one of the people who Jadhav looks to for advice, put his performances down to his attitude. "Even when he was struggling for Maharashtra, he had an attitude of wanting to boss the domestic circuit, not just score enough runs to hang around." Bhave says he cannot take credit for Jadhav's success. "Kedar has learnt from many people, but mostly he has learnt from situations. We have worked together more on a mental level."
"I was lucky to be the coach of the Maharashtra Ranji side the time Jadhav has his record breaking season," he added. "Kedar always had all the shots, everyone knew that. Leading into that season, we just worked on his defensive screen. "
Twice now in his fledgling career international career, and many a times in the domestic circuit, Jadhav has showed composure one usually associates with MS Dhoni. Both times, he has bailed both his team and his career out of trouble, and scored big in #WhenItMattersTheMost moments. He has good reason to sport that hashtag.
"I have always got most things a bit late but once I have got them, they have not gone away," Jadhav told India Today last year. Knowing that age is not on his side, he has little choice but to continue to be the opportunist that Kinikar believes him to be. And that spells good news for India, should he become a regular in the first XI.
Updated Date: Jun 24, 2016 14:15 PM