A self-confessed Dhoni fan, Kedar used to try and fail at the nets trying to impersonate his helicopter shot. His posters adorned his room, even after he became a first-class cricketer.
Shared News: Updated: March 4, 2019 9:36:16 am
Kedar Jadhav and MS Dhoni dug India out of a hole on Saturday. (File)
Throughout much of their unconquered 141-run partnership, Kedar Jadhav wore the expression of an awestruck fanboy living the ambition of playing alongside his idol. It might be that Jadhav was playing his 55th ODI match, and he himself is 33, but his adulation for MS Dhoni is such that he stood admiringly at the other end as the finisher exemplar went about plotting a masterly chase. Whenever Dhoni shot advice, which he did frequently, he would just listen and nod his head, before trying to execute former Indian skipper’s orders.
He is at a loss of words when trying to explain the emotion of batting with Dhoni. A self-confessed Dhoni fan, he used to try and fail at the nets trying to impersonate his helicopter shot. His posters adorned his room, even after he became a first-class cricketer. “I can’t put it out in words. Every time I see Mahi bhai, it instills confidence in me. That sort of aura is like, that you see him and feel that ‘I will deliver today’. He has the knack of getting the best out of every player and that’s what everybody loves about him.”
Earlier, he had spoken of how Dhoni made him feel comfortable in the dressing room during his debut series. “The kind of cricketer I am today is because of him. He has always encouraged me,” he had said during India’s tour to New Zealand. In fact, it was Dhoni who presented him the first break as a part-time bowler. “He had seen me in Zimbabwe first and in the New Zealand series at home in 2016 he just wanted two overs from me and luckily for me in my second over, I got two wickets,” he recollected. So buoyed was he that these days he is expected to fill at least 3-4 overs a day.
Back to their partnership. Initially, Dhoni advised him to rein his attacking instincts and see out Adam Zampa, who was making the ball grip off the surface and getting a bit of drift going. Also, Hyderabad had longer boundaries than say Bangalore or Vizag, so lofting him was risky too. “He would come and tell me we have plenty of time, so you need to be more solid. Now these things don’t always strike you and you need somebody to tell you that unless you have played enough international cricket to understand that. How much you practice at the nets, the best thing is learning in the middle,” he said.
But as the game went deeper, Dhoni gave him the go-ahead for big strokes. It was the need of the hour too, someone to keep an end stable while the other would look to accelerate. “Out of both of us, one has to take the risk [against other bowlers]. I have batted throughout my career at No. 4, so I’m more open to playing all the shots. Growing up, I’ve always built my batting playing shots. When playing shots, trying some innovative shots, I feel I have a good chance of converting those innovative shots. Mahi bhai sticks to his natural game — hitting down the ground. As long as he’s there, the other teams always feel the pressure,” he observed.
Subsequently, he ended up playing his most valuable knock since his blazing hundred against England in Pune, wherein he steered India home with a three-wicket win, in pursuit of hunting down 350. But as important as unearthing a finisher was finding a reliable pair of batsmen down the order, like Suresh Raina and Dhoni or the latter and Yuvraj Singh, men who could hang around if the situation demanded or those could push through the scoring gears. In this regard, it would please the team management that both Dhoni and Jadhav had been getting their combo acts going for a while. In the must-win match Melbourne this January, they dragged India out of strife with a 121-run unbeaten partnership. Like in Hyderabad, Dhoni accumulated while Jadhav attacked. Soon after the match, Ravi Shastri made a typically loud remark: “No one can replace MS Dhoni.” Jadhav would agree, while gradually envisaging to become an irreplaceable himself.
More than a part-timer
Just as his uber-cool batting (he again credits Dhoni for that), his bowling continues to surprise. His initial wave of success, many reckoned, was an aberration, the low-slung side-arm action, the ball struggling to kick off the pitch after landing and thus surprising the batsman. He grips the ball in such a way that, it would never hit the seam and so there won’t be true bounce available to hit the deliveries through the line. It was the lack of bounce—it looked a freebie until he overestimated the bounce–that undid the dangerous-looking Marcus Stoinis, who mistimed a pull straight to short midwicket.
Not just this match, he has picked 26 wickets at 31.53, many of them top-order batsmen (his scalp count includes Kane Williamson, Tamim Iqbal, Angelo Mathews, David Warner, Steven Smith among others) and in crucial stages of the match. He undersells himself, crediting it to plain luck, before adding the inevitable fan-boy line: “Some of those wickets should go to Dhoni (referring to his stump-side chatter).”