In the past several months, Indian cricket has witnessed the arrival and departure of several opening batsmen, the latest being Aakash Chopra. With the problem of opening batsmen intensifying, the selectors have now handed over the baton of responsibility to two young and consistent performers in the Domestic scene – one of them is the 25-year old Maharashtra opener, Dheeraj Jadhav. The young left hander has indeed performed better than anyone else in the domestic circuit last year and yes, the National call is a great tribute to consistently prolific run scoring and hard work and a never give up spirit shown by this talented opener.
Dheeraj Jadhav, based in Pune, made his debut for Maharashtra against arch-rivals and current Ranji Champions Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium on 15th November 1999, and in his very first innings caught the eye of the pundits, as his score of 55 had some sparks of class and composure. After this impressive debut innings, Jadhav’s domestic career has moved in only one direction – upwards. A technically sound batsman with a pre-dominantly backfoot oriented outlook, Jadhav has been one of the main reason for the sudden rise of Maharashtra in the Domestic cricket scene. His mates from the Maharashtra team used to call him “run-sookha” during the time, when run-getting was not as easy as one expected it to be. But he’s turned it around by becoming a “run-bhookha” in the past season or two, by becoming one of India’s opening sensations. The 2003-04 season will be one of the main reasons Dheeraj is where he is today. Having played 9 matches and scored 1245 runs at a Bradmanesque average of 103.75, the selectors had no option but to not ignore his performances.
The one aspect that distinguishes Jadhav from other openers India has had, one can say apart from Wasim Jaffer, that once he gets a start he makes it count. His recent scores of 260*, 251, 207 and 200* in the domestic competition justify the fact that, once this man is on a roll, its beware time for the opposition. A fine century he made for India A against the India Seniors in a warm up match before the Australian series should have done his chances of participation a world of good and indeed the selectors have chosen to show faith in his abilities as an opener. In reality, the youngster could well be the man India needs at the end opposite to Virender Sehwag while opening the batting. His recent scores of 175 and 85 for his employers Air India, whom he represents in Mumbai’s Times Shield Competition, meant that his purple patch continued with the bat and it was just a matter of time before he got there. According to Sandeep Patil, his coach when he plays for India A, Dheeraj Jadhav is one of those few blokes who never misses out on an opportunity, when it knocks his doors. Here is a big opportunity for Dheeraj to be India’s new opener and only time and his performances at the biggest stage will say if he can transfer his great domestic form into a greater one.
If Akash Chopra was a good short leg fielder, this man is one of the better ones around. He has got great reflexes and will make him an effective fielder wherever he is stationed. Besides his classic and orthodox batting, Dheeraj is an effective part time right arm off break bowler. But its too early to call him an all rounder as his batting is the only reason why he’s made the team. I remember Akash Chopra always quoting Justin Langer in his interviews as “Mate. If you have a good day, make it a great day” and one feels in the long run if India needs to diagnose the problems of opening batsmen, Dheeraj can be expected to turn good days into great ones.
A man who has thoroughly deserved his place in the batting line up, Dheeraj now gets a chance to join his statemate Sachin Tendulkar (though Sachin plays for Mumbai, he’s a Maharashtrian) and one gets the feeling that the selectors have finally hit the nail on the head by selecting him when he is in red hot touch. A long road ahead, Dheeraj will have to perform over and over again to stay in constant contention, and records prove that he’s capable of that.
We at Cricketfundas.com would like to wish the Run Machine from Maharashtra, a happy journey to International Cricket and hopefully this man becomes the right answer to the selector’s questions !