While most Maharashtra players lounged on the grass at the Wankhede stadium, Harshad Khadiwale, his face dwarfed by his helmet, studiously rolled out his forward defence over and over. Khadiwale was the last to leave the ground after multiple rounds of throwdowns. While Khadiwale, perfected his defensive block, Kedar Jadhav, the other pillar of Maharashtra’s batting this season, lolled about on the grass joking with teammates.
Over the season, this has been the way, both players have played for their state side. Khadiwale, plodding forward with his head steady and Jadhav chest thrust out, hammering bowlers around for fun. Both approaches have worked well. The 25-year-old Khadiwale, is the leading run-scorer this Ranji season with 930 runs from 14 innings at 77.50. Jadhav’s pyrotechnics have also served the burly right-hander well, with his season aggregate of 863 in 12 innings putting him at number two on the run-charts. Interestingly, Jadhav’s runs have come at a very healthy strike-rate of 80.20, the highest among the top-five run-getters.
On Wednesday, Maharashtra will be hoping that Khadiwale and Jadhav, two of their longest serving players come out firing. However, before this season, both batsmen had followed rather different scripts. Khadiwale, who made his debut as a fresh-faced 18-year-old in 2006, consistently scored runs but never managed to really kick on and make big scores. Invariably, the right-hander scored a ton or two at the end of the season, often getting starts but being unable to convert. However, this season, Khadiwale says, it was time to set the record straight.
“It was not like I was not scoring runs. However, getting hundreds and big scores right at the start of a season is a wonderful thing. It puts you in a very positive place and allows you to go into games with your confidence right up,” he says. Khadiwale has already scored three hundreds and narrowly missed out twice, getting out in the nineties.
Jadhav on the other hand, started last season with a bang, hammering 327 runs in the first match against Uttar Pradesh. But then, the 28-year-old tailed off. He got just one more hundred and was found wanting on seaming tracks, with his lack of foot movement being blamed for his ineffectiveness.
Maharashtra coach, Surendra Bhave, says that it was Jadhav’s inability to consistently put his foot out towards the pitch of the ball that was hampering him. Bhave, who has been guiding Jadhav since the batsman made his India A debut in 2010, says that he put in place a number of drills that forced Jadhav to move his feet towards the ball.
“Kedar, is a superb batsman but at times when the ball is moving, you see him playing shots from a very static position. However, during the off-season last year, we identified the problem and started Kedar on throw-downs, where-in he was required to put out a big stride and either defend or drive the ball,” he says.
This season though, Jadhav started with a bang, a half-century in the first game was followed by a double hundred in the next and two more centuries in the following two games. In Maharashtra’s last group game against Assam, Jadhav was the only player who looked at home on a viciously turning track in Guwahati, muscling his way to another century.
Jadhav for his part, accepts that playing on seaming tracks is not his favourite thing, but the front-foot drills he was subjected to, he says are bearing fruit. “I am much more confident, moving my feet now. I really practiced my front-foot drives and that has opened up a lot of scoring areas for me. Earlier, I was always waiting for the cut and pull, and that often tied me down as bowlers in Ranji Trophy are quick to identify how to tie a batsman down,” he says.