In a high-stakes game, seeing a contestant go about their business without a care can throw off any opposition from their game. In Indian cricket, Kedar Jadhav from Maharashtra is one such operator. Mumbai’s cricket team is well aware of how dangerous he can be and as luck would have it, in the all-important Ranji Trophy Elite League match, they once again found themselves on the receiving end of Kedar’s knife at Brabourne Stadium, on Tuesday.
There’s something about Mumbai that seems to get the best of the middle bat. His 120 not out in the 2013/14 quarter-final at Wankhede Stadium to chase a target of 252 for the loss of two wickets against a Zaheer Khan-led side is part of the folklore of the Maharashtra derby.
Ten years later, at the age of 37, he turned back the clock to score another great hundred against local rivals. His superb 128 helped Maharashtra close the opening day at 314/6 and put pressure on the hosts in the must-win game.
In 2013/14, Jadhav had yet to play for India and had the extra motivation to impress the national selectors. Now he scores points for fun — in three Ranji matches, the veteran has two half-centuries and a 283. It’s impressive because he suddenly disappeared from the track for almost a year and a half. He had become a forgotten man. It was no surprise that he failed to win any bids at the last IPL auction.
“The fight is between me and my mind, if I want to do well and prepare really well for it, I usually do well,” Kedar said after the game of the day. “I’ve seen it all, I’ve been there, I’m 37, I’ve played more pressure games than this. This was just another day. Both teams need at least the first innings lead to qualify for the next round, that’s the only pressure,” he added.
The challenge for the opponent against a player like Kedar is that he makes hitting look easy even under extreme pressure. The Mumbai bowlers chose to bowl first in winning the toss and did well to take the top four wickets for 129 runs.
The opening day pitch offered help to the pacesetters. Impressively, even as he walked down a few steps to kill the movement, Kedar looked unhurried. Always looking to attack, he converted good length deliveries into drives or moved across to spin the ball out to the side. When the bowlers erred, he got on top of the bounce for his pull shots. Mumbai was left behind because of the drop catch in slip he offered when he was on 37. That was the only chance, as he then hit 18 fours and a six.
“I love this city. I like playing in Mumbai, I don’t come here often to play club games. I came here to play Ranji Trophy or India or IPL games, the pitches are very good and the people are very supportive.Test cricketers come to watch you play.It’s a very encouraging atmosphere where you want to show how good you are.So I love batting in Mumbai regardless of the opposition.The sports courts always challenge the sportsman in you. ”
So, what is the motivation to come and play Ranji Trophy now?
“I realized that there is nothing else I can do and that makes me happy. At the same time it also keeps me fit. So I thought to come back and play. I’m happy to be able to contribute to the games I’ve played and I look forward to doing so for a few more years. I enjoy my batting.”