It’s not often that a batsman can snatch the limelight away from the individual or combined prowess of Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Shane Watson and Virat Kohli. But it’s not a bad time to gather some attention when two of the quartet are not around, and the existing pair have retreated to the pavilion. Kedar Jadhav did exactly that, just seized his rare break.
Before this match, he had appeared only four times for RCB. But here there was no Kohli or AB, both nursing injuries. Gayle and Watson perished before the 10th over. Royal Challengers Bangalore, having already lost their opening match, seemed to fizzle out in front of their perpetually excited, screaming fans. Jadhav gave them a new reason to celebrate. And a new name to scream.
His knock was like a furious storm that came without any foreboding. He had telegraphed his intention by smoking Amit Mishra over cover off his sixth ball. But he was, otherwise, sedate, tricking down to 15 off 17 deliveries, which by T20 standards, at any point of the innings a little under-cut. Then, RCB were still recovering from the shock of three wickets and Shahbaz Nadeem was still bowling. Hence, perhaps the extra caution.
The sight of Mishra trotting along, maybe, brought forth a radical change of mind. He shifted gears. Just like that. The first ball was whipped to long-on in neo-classical fashion. But the next ball was brutalised over mid-wicket. The good old-fashioned slog sweep. Ungainly, but effective and momentum-shifting. But Jadhav didn’t stop here. You think he will, given the dire scenario they were in. But Jadhav knows he won’t be showered with opportunities, when Kohli and AB return. Even if he does, he will have to be content batting down the order, his roles reduced to cameos. So he had to reinforce his worth, and his ability to impact the match. He smote Mishra for successive boundaries and capped off the over with a replica slog-swept six. Daredevils’ most potent spinner was de-fanged.
Then, Jadhav didn’t even stop there. Carlos Brathwaite, that hulk of the Caribbean paceman, was hefted through deep mid-wicket before he was scythed over cover. To see his toying with the bowlers is no longer a surprise—-he has busted the fit-for-longer-format impression in the recent series against England-but he doesn’t quite exude a destroyer’s aura. Maybe, it’s his built. Or maybe it’s the early impression. But it won’t take too long before he is feared.
It’s hard to not feel for Rishabh Pant. To be present at the ground, two days after his father’s death, in itself is an attestation to his courage and maturity. Then he kept the personal tragedy aside to rattle out a half-century of remarkable quality, and then to see his side fall short by mere 15 runs. Not that a win here would have soothed his pain, but it at least would have given him some relief. If only his fellow batsmen batted with half as much composure.
The rest, it seemed, were in a tearing hurry, as if they had an early flight back to Delhi. They contrived to perish. Had common sense prevailed, they would have been just happy rotating the strike and let Pant do the boundary hitting, and it was not like they required 12 runs an over. At one juncture, they required just under eight. But the flurry of wickets meant their run rate swelled and Pant was constrained by circumstances. But as long as he was around, Delhi still nursed hopes, even of they needed 21 off the last two overs. But a frugal 19th over by Watson meant that they required 19 off the last. Pant vanquished off the first ball, and Delhi slumped to a familiar low.
Shahbaz Nadeem goes anonymous on the field, doesn’t possess cryptic variations; he hardly turns the ball big; he isn’t prone to theatrics. His craft, it seems, is plain, too plain to even hold our fixed gaze, let alone breath. That’s until you scan at the scorecard and realise that he has conceded only 13 runs off four overs, bowled 13 dot balls, conceded zero boundaries and snuffed out Shane Watson.
It’s convenient to typecast him as a bowler reliant on his accuracy than any genuine craft. True, he has immaculate accuracy. But he is a smart bowler too, for he shrewdly mixes his length, subtly varies his pace and when you think he is all flat and straight, he tosses one up.
Beyond all these, he reads the batsmen’s mind like a seasoned mind-reader. Watson can vouch for this, because he seemed to foretell his moves. Each time he stepped out, he would shorten his length. Finally, he got him out in this fashion too, when a frustrated Watson had a hideous swish at him. That was the only moment, Nadeem cracked open his shell of anonymity.
Today’s matches: Hyderabad vs Gujarat; Hyderabad 4 pm; Mumbai versus Kolkata; Mumbai 8 pm.