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IT WAS a contrived shot. You might not have ranked it too high on aesthetics. But it was certainly up there in terms of shock value. Like he had earlier in the over, Moeen Ali had darted this one in with the intent of cramping Kedar Jadhav. But not only did Jadhav manage to make room; he also swatted it inside-out for four. Nobody else, except Jadhav himself, at the MCA Stadium could quite fathom how he’d hit a ball from a couple of inches outside leg stump over mid-off. That included Virat Kohli, who stood stunned at the non-striker’s end.
He wasn’t the only one going, “how did he do that?” though. It wasn’t the only time Jadhav left everyone around with that feeling on Sunday. It had been a tight over from Ali till that point. He had conceded only three singles. Jadhav knew he had to find a boundary to quell the pressure. He had spotted space behind the mid-off fielder. So, he just decided to clear him. It didn’t matter to him where the ball pitched or was headed.
It was almost like he instinctively knew what had to be done from the moment he walked out to the crease. Even if the score read 63/4 and India were chasing 351 for victory. A counterattack was the need of the hour. So he hit three boundaries off the first seven deliveries he faced. They were all relatively straightforward strokes played without any great flourish. But they were all placed with surgical precision. They were either hit wide enough or hard enough to beat the fielder.
With Kohli at his sublime best, he also needed to keep rotating the strike. So he did that as well. By the time he cruised past the half-century mark in just 29 balls, Jadhav had run 17 singles. England kept trying to get Kohli off strike. Jadhav kept bringing the Indian captain back on strike. And whenever he thought it wise, he smacked a boundary of his own.
It also pretty much summed up Kedar Jadhav, the cricketer. He’s not the most flamboyant cricketer in the world. You might not necessarily recall the shots he plays during a match. Sunday wasn’t the first time the 31-year-old was actually hitting India out of trouble in his very limited career. But he’s always done it so unassumingly that not many probably would have taken much notice of it.
But here he wasn’t just holding his own alongside Kohli. He was outscoring his captain and, if anything, outshining him as well. A couple of overs later, it was Adil Rashid who managed a few dot deliveries. Jadhav responded with first pulling him for four before going inside-out again and launching him over extra cover for a six. Just like that, the pressure was off.
Kohli would later describe some of Jadhav’s shots as ‘unbelievable’. He would even credit the diminutive right-hander as being the one man responsible for the successful run chase. This on a day he didn’t too badly either, scoring his 27th ODI ton.
But for a major part of a career that has spanned close to a decade, Jadhav has slipped under the radar despite being one of the run-merchants of domestic cricket. His chances at the highest level were far and few in between.
After his debut in Ranchi, the next six ODIs of his career came in Harare across two separate tours. On Sunday, he was playing at his home ground. But according to locals, there many among the thousands at the MCA Stadium who weren’t necessarily aware of him being their hometown boy, considering how low-profile he’s kept his life off the field.
Jadhav is the ultimate utility man. The kind that any team would want in their midst. He can win you matches while batting at No.6 like he did here, he can bowl you crucial overs at various stages of the match like he did here, and he can always triple up as a stand-in wicketkeeper. He goes about his cricket with a certain know how and street-smartness. And he thrives in being stylishly un-stylish.
No wonder that Kohli preferred Jadhav over R Ashwin at the start of the death overs. Ben Stokes was going really hard then, and India needed to somehow try and stem the flow. It’s an innocuous action really. If the trajectory of the ball isn’t low enough when he delivers it, considering his modest height, he crouches further and lowers his arm further at the point of release. It makes it extremely difficult for the batsman to get under it and hit it aerially. He also mixes up his angles of delivery, at times delivering from behind the crease along with slowing it up in the air.
While batting, Jadhav thrives on keeping a low base — which isn’t too difficult considering his height — creating length and slamming balls to the on-side, or like he showed on Sunday, manufacturing a shot through or over the off-side. Towards the end, he was laid low by cramps, and on occasions was left sprawled on the pitch. But still he managed to keep getting up and slamming sixes. It was that kind of knock. It was that kind of day, one where Jadhav left England and even his own captain in awe.