Dheeraj Jadhav, in living up to his name, which translates to patience in English, is reputed for his patient hundreds. On Wednesday, the Assam captain will get to a century that will be more special than any of his 23 first-class tons so far; he will feature in his 100th first-class match when Assam taken on Goa in a Ranji Trophy Group C match in Porvorim.
"It is an overwhelming feeling. I would say this is the second-best achievement of my career after my India call-up," Jadhav told ESPNcricinfo. "This wouldn't have happened without the support of my family and all my team-mates, from all the teams I have played for."
Thirty-five-year-old Jadhav's cricketing journey has been an arduous one so far. He learnt his early lessons on the cricket field in Mumbai. He lost his father in his teens and was forced to move to Pune along with the rest of his family. In Pune, his technique was fine-tuned by Milind Gunjal, a former Maharashtra captain, and that helped him emerge as a consistent opener for Maharashtra. His exploits in domestic cricket and for India A on the tour to Kenya in 2003-04 gave him his maiden India call-up for the last Test against Australia in Mumbai in 2004.
He continued to be the reserve opener during the two-Test series in Zimbabwe in 2005. Dejected after being dropped without being given an opportunity and having fallen out with his home association, Jadhav joined the rebel Indian Cricket League in 2007. Once he returned to the BCCI's fold, he chose to join Assam as a professional and has been plying his trade with them since 2009-10.
"Had it not been for Assam cricket, I would never have played so much. They stood behind me at the time when I needed it the most," Jadhav said. "I would have laughed it off had anyone told me six or eight years ago that I would end up playing 100 first-class matches."
"Playing in Plate division [Group C] isn't easy. It offers very challenging conditions. We have to play on under-prepared pitches a lot of the time. Besides, weather conditions in states like Assam, Himachal, Tripura and Jammu & Kashmir really test the mettle of a batsman."
Jadhav's 16-year stint in first-class cricket is thus divided into pre- and post-ICL exploits. Interestingly, his average has increased in the second phase, while playing in far from ideal conditions in the lowest rung of the tournament. If his tally of 2890 runs at 54.52 from 35 matches for Maharashtra wasn't impressive enough, he has averaged 58.92 in 40 games for Assam, amassing 3123 runs.
Jadhav's numbers are often played down since most of them have been achieved in that lowest rung of the Ranji Trophy, though. "This is the weirdest argument made by those who don't follow domestic cricket closely," Jadhav said. "Playing in Plate division [Group C] isn't easy. It offers very challenging conditions. We have to play on under-prepared pitches a lot of the time. Besides, weather conditions in states like Assam, Himachal, Tripura and Jammu & Kashmir really test the mettle of a batsman."
Jadhav hopes to lead Assam from the front and celebrate his 100th game with a victory that would take them closer to knockouts and promotion for the next season. Assam are currently placed third in Group C and are in with a good chance to finish in top two, which would help him achieve that objective.
"That would be the perfect way to celebrate - win the game and inch closer to Elite division [Groups A and B]. If I can lead Assam back to the top flight, it would bring a lot satisfaction. Who knows, a strong showing against Elite teams might once again open the doors of the national team for me."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo