Jadhav shows respect for defence
Coming into the ongoing domestic season, Kedar Jadhav had four first-class centuries to his name, including the mammoth 327 against Uttar Pradesh in 2012-13. That number has gone up to nine, with his match-winning hundred against Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy quarter-final being his fifth of the season.
Jadhav's unbeaten 120 at the Wankhede Stadium took his Ranji tally for the season to 1034 runs. And with potentially two more matches for Maharashtra, he can not only surpass Dheeraj Jadhav's record of 1066 for the most runs in a Ranji season for Maharashtra but also pose a threat to the all-time top three run-getters in a Ranji season - VVS Laxman (1415, in 1999-00), Vijay Bharadwaj (1280, in 1998-99) and Wasim Jaffer (1260, in 2008-09).
Jadhav has always had a reputation of being an aggressive batsman. He's gifted with an exceptional ability to read the length of the ball and hand-eye coordination. He has, therefore, been billed as a limited-overs' specialist. He has shown glimpses of his abilities against reputed bowlers during his limited opportunities in the IPL and for India A in 50-over games.
Besides his consistent scores, an equally impressive factor about Jadhav's batting is his scoring rate. While his record 327 against Uttar Pradesh had come off just 312 balls, his 1000-plus runs this year have come at a strike rate of 80.40.
The big difference in his technique this year has been his ability to defend balls. Jadhav credits Maharashtra coach Surendra Bhave for making him realise the importance of it. It started two years ago when Bhave, then a Maharashtra and national selector, managed Torna Tigers in the Maharashtra Premier League.
"Players like Kedar who are extremely talented don't usually pay heed to anyone else's advice. He is an exception," Bhave told ESPNcricinfo. "Since we knew each other for long and we had an opportunity to work together for a considerable amount of time, I could make him realise the important of forward defence."
Once Bhave took over as coach midway through the last season, the duo started working virtually on a daily basis. During the off-season, Bhave spotted the problem in Jadhav's technique, which wasn't just about forward defence. The root cause was the "lack of a forward stride that had found him wanting in pace-friendly conditions". Once the problem was identified, the measures were easy.
Jadhav admitted that he felt at his best at the start of the season. "Once the technical modification had been done, I was feeling much more confident going into the season. I knew I could build an innings and bat long all through the season," Jadhav said.
When he travelled to Mumbai along with his team-mates, his 863 runs till then wasn't enough to convince the experts since they were scored "in Group C", the lowest tier of the Ranji Trophy. Not many realise that while the quality of bowling is not the best in Group C, the conditions are also far from favourable at most venues.
However, he showed his prowess in his first opportunity against a more superior attack. Though his 51 in the first innings at the Wankhede was scratchy, his unbeaten 120 in the second was the opposite. What stood out in his century was his composure. He and Vijay Zol, who made an unbeaten 91, had been instructed not to fiddle away with anything that was pitched outside off for the first 90 minutes. While Zol almost frittered away the opportunity, dropped at point trying to chase Abhishek Nayar, Jadhav put him right. It was remarkable to see Jadhav being patient till lunch and then exploding after the break.
He scored just 35 runs in his first 77 balls after lunch and then smacked 85 off 67 in the second session to help Maharashtra overhaul a stiff target of 252 on a seamer-friendly track. And the 28-year-old had no qualms in admitting his knock could well be a milestone in his career. "This was an innings which had required everything that I have been working on to be put to test. And I am glad it all came good when it mattered the most. This has further boosted my confidence," he said.
Asked about his aspirations, Jadhav, the youngest of four children of a retired clerk from the state electricity board, said: "All I hope is to continue in the same vein, help my team's cause as much as I can and make my father and coach proud."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo