England in India 2016-17 January 17, 2017

I can do anything to overcome the odds - Jadhav

Kedar Jadhav did the unthinkable and outshone Virat Kohli - a likely all-time great - with his knock in the first ODI © AFP

Kedar Jadhav is 31 years old, but on Sunday he did what only boys not bogged down by realities of life can dream of. He walked out at 63 for 4, with his parents, his wife and his daughter in attendance, and stunned England with a century that helped India chase down 350. It was an innings that overshadowed a really exceptional effort from a man who now has legitimate claims to being one of India's best three ODI batsmen of all time. It was an innings where Kohli had to push himself. Imagine. Jadhav played a knock that outshone that Kohli effort. Only boys dream of just walking in with the match all but lost and then running away with it, with a man destined to be an all-time great watching in awe at times.

One such time was when Joe Root and Moeen Ali had bowled 10 straight balls without a boundary. Thirty-three runs had come off the last 35 balls. This was the quietest England had managed to keep this Jadhav-Kohli partnership of 200. To the last ball of this over, the 27th, Jadhav made room. Moeen saw it. He fired it into the pads. There was no room to play a forceful shot now, especially with the leg side packed. Jadhav, though, went ahead with his attempted drive over mid-off to this short ball. The ball flew far enough to meet the boundary skirting on the half-volley.

A Hawk-Eye indication of where Moeen Ali pitched that ball © Hawk-Eye

It was just Jadhav's bad luck that, later in the night, Kohli played a shot even more awesome. This one didn't get talked about so much. Two days later, Jadhav explained why he could execute a shot like that. And one sweep against the turn of Adil Rashid, straight over mid-on for a six.

"As a kid, I played more tennis-ball cricket than with the cricket ball," Jadhav said. "There used to be a tournament where you could hit fours and sixes only straight down the ground. If you hit on the sides you were given out. So that's how I got into this habit that even if there is bounce, if the ball is at a manageable height and if I feel I can clear 30 yards, I can do it. I could do this with the tennis ball. So the flow with which I was playing yesterday, I thought if there isn't much bounce and if I can get a bit of elevation, I can hit out. In that over we hadn't got a boundary and you needed a boundary every over to maintain that asking rate. So I took that option and it clicked."

On the night, as Kohli pushed Jadhav with the running between the wickets, you got the impression he was struggling to keep up, but he turned down only those runs that were not on. Jadhav later said he will come back as a better runner, but his strength and endurance is not to be underestimated. Two years ago he went to Australia to represent India A and played on despite what he thought was some pain in his hand. When the pain didn't recede even after he came back home, he got it checked only to find he had fractured his hand.

"I realised that if I could perform well in Australia for India despite carrying a fracture, I can bear any pain," Jadhav said. "If I have to overcome odds, I know I can do anything. That's how I always think, and since I keep achieving it most of the times, my belief in my abilities continues to grow."

That doesn't stop Jadhav from watching against complacency. Jadhav's second century may have given him a more permanent spot in the India ODI side, but he is not taking it for granted. "There shouldn't be a change [in my approach]," Jadhav said. "I always play every game as my last game. Whenever you represent your country, you've to give more than 100%. I'll try and do that in whatever games I get, whenever I bat or bowl."

Jadhav played some IPL cricket with Virender Sehwag at Delhi Daredevils, and he showed shades of Sehwag's thinking in the way he approached the chase.

'Whenever you bat with Virat, it helps you, because the bowlers focus on him' - Jadhav © Associated Press

"Since we were four down, England were looking to attack," Jadhav said. "It was good that many fielders were in catching positions rather than saving boundaries. The wicket was good for batting, so I had a lot of gaps to score boundaries. And my natural game is to try and dominate the opposition whenever I bat. I look to take the bowlers on. So I was just playing in that flow, and because we had to chase 350, irrespective of the situation, we had to maintain the tempo."

It helped that Kohli was at the other end, which meant all of England's energies were spent on the more accomplished partner. Jadhav had said after the match that he rued that he hadn't got to bat as much with Kohli as he would have liked. Before Sunday, Jadhav had batted with Kohli three times.

"Whenever you bat with Virat, it helps you," Jadhav said. "Because the bowlers' focus would be on him - how to get him out, how to control him. So that's an advantage. If you are batting with him, you sometimes get loose balls and more opportunities to score. The bowlers are not able to put a lot of pressure on you, so that helps a lot."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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