Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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N Jagadeesan is a positive person. He tends to find hope, according to friends and team-mates, in tough situations. Like he did when MS Dhoni, in a rare outburst, spoke of how the youngsters on the bench at Chennai Super Kings "lacked spark" after their dismal showing in the first half of IPL 2020.
Jagadeesan, 26 now, was one of those youngsters who sat out for much of that season. And when he was asked if Dhoni's comment had hurt, Jagadeesan's response was that it was the captain's way of "firing up youngsters to stand up and deliver".
Last week, Jagadeesan was one of eight players released by CSK ahead of the auction on December 23. It brought an end to a four-year stint with the team, during which he'd only played seven games. And like several others released, Jagadeesan was back on the long and winding road that is India's domestic cricket to chart a way forward.
One week later, Jagadeesan is in the news again, this time for that spark turning into a wildfire in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. He came into the tournament with three List A hundreds in 36 matches across five years. Nine days on, Jagadeesan has nearly tripled that tally, becoming the first batter in history to score five consecutive List A centuries.
On Monday, when he smashed 277 off 141 balls against Arunachal Pradesh at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, he surpassed the record of four consecutive tons held by Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara, South Africa's Alviro Petersen and India's Devdutt Padikkal. He also shattered Alistair Brown's two-decade old record for the highest List A score of 268. His innings included 25 fours and 15 sixes.
Jagadeesan's previous four hundreds in the tournament had come against Haryana (128), Goa (168), Chhattisgarh (107) and Andhra (114 not out). In comparison, the record-breaking 277 was against a vastly inexperienced Arunachal Pradesh attack that had a combined 43 wickets between them. All said, runs are runs, and his feat helped Tamil Nadu shatter the record for the highest score in List A cricket, as they blasted 506 for 2 in 50 overs.
Even as the sensational news began to make waves on social media, Jagadeesan's knock itself was witnessed by no more than a handful of people. At the innings break, the Tamil Nadu team manager was lining up to chat with the video analyst and retrieve footage of the innings. Jagadeesan appeared his usual self - chirpy and jovial with his team-mates as they prepared to field.
This Vijay Hazare Trophy has been all the more crucial for Jagadeesan because he has been able to shake off the perception of being a batter who plays a safe game. It also ended talk of his form being on the wane, especially after a disappointing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, where he managed just 118 runs in six innings at a strike rate of 131.11.
On Monday, Jagadeesan got to his century off 76 balls; took just 23 more deliveries to bring up the 150; and another 15 balls to get to his double-century. This aggressive approach could make a difference when his name comes up for bidding at the IPL auction.
So far, Jagadeesan has played only seven IPL games and batted just four times, scoring 73 runs for CSK at a strike rate of 110.61. One of the factors that supposedly prevented him from getting more opportunities was that he was an accumulator and not an aggressive batter. And with the growing clamour for dynamism in T20 cricket, Jagadeesan decided to work on developing his skills.
Those who have followed Jagadeesan in Chennai's cricket circles vouch for his work ethic. Even though he wasn't a part of CSK's traveling contingent during the 2019 IPL season, his drive was not dimmed. Jagadeesan would often play a league game in the morning and return to train at Chepauk with the squad during their home games.
While opportunities in the IPL have been few, Jagadeesan has been prolific for Chepauk Super Gillies in the Tamil Nadu Premier League. Last year he made 336 runs - third most in the tournament - in 10 innings at a strike rate of 125.37. There may have been concerns about his ability to accelerate, and he has recognised his shortfalls and worked on overcoming them.
While you could argue that four of his five hundreds have come at relatively small grounds in Alur on the outskirts of Bangalore, those who watched Jagadeesan bat vouch for how he's managed to accelerate seamlessly. His knocks have earned praise from a number of talent scouts - from the Super Kings camp too.
Having been a key part of Tamil Nadu's white-ball revolution over the years, Jagadeesan is now enjoying a sensational run of form. And a timely one too. He was sold to CSK at his base price of INR 20 lakh at the mega auction earlier this year. After a record-breaking 277 off 141 balls, the demand for his skills is likely to be higher come December 23.