The transformation of Kedar Jadhav



Jadhav crunched an impressive 37-ball 69 to steer Royal Challengers Bangalore to calmer waters against Delhi Daredevils © AFP

- Around this time last year, ahead of Royal Challengers' home fixture against Delhi Daredevils, Kedar Jadhav sneaked in and out of the press conference room so quickly that some people could have sworn he'd never turned up. But when he did answer, he spoke demurely of how glad he was to get a front row's seat to watch AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli play and how excited he was to play the follow-up to their main acts.

That was a player unsure of himself, a man happy to fit-in so as to not get left out. On the following day, when it was his turn to bat, Jadhav was severely cramped by the pace on Chris Morris's deliveries, plodding his way to an unbeaten 11-ball 9 as the hosts threw away an opportunity to post a total in excess of 200 and eventually succumbed to the brilliance of Quinton de Kock. Jadhav featured in only two more games before spending the rest of the season warming the benches.

When Jadhav, 32 now, spoke after Royal Challengers' 15-run win over Daredevils, he had success at the international level enunciating for him. Forget the support act, here he was, the central architect of Royal Challengers' 15-run victory, which had been achieved despite the absence of Kohli and de Villiers. Occupying a No. 4 slot, Jadhav unleashed his fury upon Daredevils' bowlers, scoring five sixes and and equal number of fours enroute a 37-ball 69. While the rest of Royal Challengers' batting scored at a combined rate of 106, Jadhav struck his runs at 186.47, a defining statistic underlining his importance to the side during its current bout with injuries.

Jadhav, who self-admittedly searched for bit-part roles in batting units, struck a different chord following his most-recent exploit. "I have never wanted to be a player who will just get into the side, I have always wanted to be the player who will lead the side in matches with performances. This is how I train my mind and prepare. Whatever you are seeing is my approach and I am converting it," he said on Saturday (April 8).

"I get to face more balls when I bat higher. As a batsman, you always try to get as many balls you can get so that you can score more runs. I am in a phase where I am hitting the ball well. The experience part is also there. I have been playing first-class cricket for past ten years. Everything is going for me. I can [get the] best out of me as long as I am facing more balls. It is the management's decision to bat me higher, and I am supporting them with performances like these."

It is true that Jadhav has got it all going for him in the past six months. He was called up to the ODI squad last October for the New Zealand series because of his ability to plug multiple holes in the side. He could finish off games and then double up as a back-up 'keeper to MS Dhoni. Unexpectedly, Jadhav went on to achieve success in a third suit (he took six wickets from five ODIs at 12.16), elevating his stocks to an all-time high. Then the Pune and Kolkata ODIs against England added more feathers to his cap.

But, behind the seemingly perfect alignment of his stars, is a fitness regimen picked up during the time away from the IPL last season. Under trainer Shankar Basu, Jadhav became discernibly lighter, allowing him to be more nimble with his footwork. Once fitness was achieved, confidence came charging after.

"I lost seven kilos, so the thing is I'm able to move faster. Fitness is a thing, you know, if you just look into the mirror and you gain too much confidence. So I guess that part has worked for me.

"I got enough time to train with our trainer, Shankar Basu and it has definitely transformed into my game. I am feeling much stronger, fitter so that has definitely helped me, I guess."

On Saturday, Jadhav was particularly nimble in his use of feet against Amit Mishra, smashing 24 off the leggie's second over to spark a turnaround in Royal Challengers' fortunes in the game. Before that over, the 13th of the match, the hosts were just about striking at six runs per over. Jadhav himself had only 15 runs to show off his first 17 deliveries and the time was ripe for a counter-attack to begin.

The inside-out six over extra cover off Mishra was a highlight in itself, aptly acknowledged by Daredevils' Chris Morris. "He's an unorthodox player, hits it to different areas to what the bowlers are used to," Morris said. "He played the situation so well, decided who he was going to take on. Decided to take Mishy [Mishra] on and gave him a hiding. On another night, Mishy may have got him with the first ball he tried to hit out of the park. It was his day today, he played nicely. Strong man, hits it quite far."

In 2010, Jadhav announced himself to the IPL by smashing a 29-ball half-century against his current team while playing for the Daredevils. It's taken him seven years to total three 50+ scores. While a Royal Challengers side without Kohli and de Villiers may seem unfathomable to most but there is atleast one person not complaining about the sudden opening of opportunities. The spotlight is on Jadhav and the Maharashtra man is eager to make the most of it.

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