Kedar Jadhav's stunning ton helped India chase 351 against England    AFP
Kedar Jadhav’s stunning ton helped India chase 351 against England AFP

No, he is not another youngster in the horizon. In two months, Kedar Jadhav will turn 32. He has close to 5,000 First-Class runs, spanned across almost a decade s worth of Ranji Trophy experience. Despite a List A average of 50 and strike rate of over 105, it took Jadhav a 76-ball 120 and a successful chase of 351 to be a household name in the country.

That is why stages matter.

It is not often you see Virat Kohli playing second fiddle. The local boy at Pune overshadowed the maestro. When one does that he ought to be special.

Jadhav is. This was his moment.

India chased down 351 in the first ODI against England at Pune. Jadhav walked out to bat when India were 63 for 4 in the 12th over. Jadhav knows the Pune surface better than most. Four years back he had amassed 327 against Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy. Of course, he had the advantage of playing on his familiar ground.

FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs England, 1st ODI at Pune

He had to wait for a year to play his next ODI after his maiden ton in Zimbabwe in 2015, and 16 months to play his next ODI innings. He played the 3 ODIs in Zimbabwe in 2016 but did not get a chance to bat.

Selected for the New Zealand series in October, he could break into the XI only after Suresh Raina s illness.

Again, he needed something going his way before disappearing in the oblivion.

He had showed glimpses of brilliance with the bat, but more interestingly, surprised everyone with claimed 6 wickets in the series at 12.17 with his cunning off-spin. Earlier, he used to be more famous as part-time wicketkeeper than with ball. How do you expect this show from someone with just one First-Class wicket?

In front of his home crowd and family and at the most opportune moment, Jadhav fought nerves, cramps, a demanding Kohli and English bowlers to shine.

You do not lose often after scoring 350. Eoin Morgan was forced to say: We take our hat off to Jadhav. He was striking it from ball one and gave us no chance.

***

63 for 4. MS Dhoni, captain of the local IPL franchise, walks back. The noisy Pune crowd go dazed.

The local boy walks out. He begins to outscore Kohli. The strokes are perfectly orthodox. When Morgan thinks of a plan to counter him, the sweeps are unleashed. In between come deft late-cuts and unorthodox slaps, aided with nimble use of feet and incredible bat-speed.

MS Dhoni departed after scoring only 6 at his IPL home ground    AFP
MS Dhoni departed after scoring only 6 at his IPL home ground AFP

Jadhav reaches 50 from 29 balls before Morgan could figure out what was happening. He is unperturbed. The job is not done. The celebrations are restricted to a brief handshake with Kohli. The bigger job still needs to be done.

Sceptics are reminded of India s Delhi chase against New Zealand at Delhi three months back. Jadhav s 41 lights things up, but India go on to lose after he and Dhoni fall in succession. Once again, the question is asked, if not Dhoni, who should be the ideal finisher?

He was disappointed in the last series against New Zealand when he couldn t get us across the line. In New Delhi, he was playing really well. We told him that the best place you can learn is out there in the middle. No point sitting outside and thinking what you could have done, Kohli said after Sunday s game.

Jadhav grabbed the moment on Sunday. He became the fifth-fastest centurion from India.

The Kohli-factor

Jadhav does not live in illusions. He has done it once, but his captain has done it time and again.

I could play this long because the captain Kohli has shown us how to chase big totals. I have already missed many chances with the batting. I have also missed chances to bat with Virat and watch him closely, Jadhav was honest enough to share the credit.

In fact, Jadhav plays for Royal Challengers Bangalore, a side led by Kohli. Despite his hard-hitting and keeping skills, he was dropped from the XI to accommodate KL Rahul. The likes of Sachin Baby were preferred ahead of him.

Kohli stresses importance on fitness. Unfortunately, Jadhav is not the quickest amongst the lot. Even the talented Sarfraz Khan had to suffer a similar fate.

Jadhav will have earned some brownie points for the next season.

In the Visakhapatnam ODI against New Zealand, Kohli admonished Jadhav when the latter refused a quick single. Moments like these came to fore on Sunday too.

Even when Kohli was on 99, Jadhav refused a single. Kohli, one of the fittest athletes, raises the bar and it is difficult to match.

Kedar Jadhav raises his bat after completing his brilliant century    AFP
Kedar Jadhav raises his bat after completing his brilliant century AFP

It s tough, believe me, sighed Jadhav when he was asked about running with Kohli. But he promised to improve.

The cramps did not help either but maybe the extra push from the captain did.

The only thing I spoke to him when he was cramping in between. The only word was to keep pushing. I didn t need to tell him much out there in the middle. He was very calculative. I told him to get the focus back on the game and take his mind off it (cramps). Push a little harder for the team, Kohli later revealed.

Moments after Kohli was out, Jadhav played a pull towards mid-wicket. Hardik Pandya tore down the pitch. He wanted the second run. Unfortunately, Jadhav had collapsed on the pitch, surrounded by concerned English cricketers. As the medical team came to his aid, Ajinkya Rahane delivered coach Anil Kumble s message.

The concerned look on his parents added to the drama. The moist-eyed mother wanted her son to be fine. Indian mothers are, after all, Indian mothers.

She was very concerned when Kedar was having cramps. She had to be told that the pain would go away soon, elder sister Charu later told India Today.

The general perception was he wanted to continue. The equation was 80 from 73.

He later clarified, I was thinking to go off for a while but the message was that if I took a break the cramps could further aggravate. It made more sense to stay there and play long shots.

He had struck a six two balls ago. He lofted the next ball over mid-wicket for another six. The bowler was Jake Ball, England s fastest bowler.

A few blows later, Jadhav pulled straight to deep square-leg. There was deafening silence. He called Pandya for a chat and gave him instructions. By the time he left the greens, the silence had given way to applauds.

The equation was 60 from 61. With Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin in the ranks, a side is expected to win 9 out of the 10 games from here.

Jadhav s innings had left England and his own captain in awe. An ecstatic Kohli later called the innings outstanding . He said, I think it was one of the best partnerships I have been part of. We chased 350 a couple of times before but not from 63 for 4.

It was a fairytale end that culminated in his family returning to their Kothrud (a western Pune suburb) residence with the Man of the Match Trophy.

The finisher?

India tends to get emotional with occasion and the moment. The finisher blank has not been filled yet with Jadhav s name. He is a strong contender, no doubt.

Remember, Manish Pandey was dubbed as the ideal finisher after his Sydney heroics last year.

What matters in this game is the consistency rate. There is a much younger Manish Pandey waiting in the wings, not to forget Raina. The stalwart is banging the doors for a comeback. Even Dhoni had identified him as his successor for the finishing role.

Ambati Rayudu has not done anything wrong, either. And the world has seen a brief glimpse of Karun Nair. And I am not yet mentioning the names like Ishan Kishan, Rishabh Pant and so on

The mind-set for a finisher is important and Jadhav s reflects in Kohli s post-match comments.

He was brilliant and that s why we back him to play at No. 6. Kedar and I had a gut feel. We thought if we get the score past 150-160 together still with four down, we had a great chance, said Kohli.

Jadhav did acknowledge Virender Sehwag s role in his rise as a cricketer. It was under Sehwag that Jadhav had made his IPL debut for Delhi Daredevils.

Jadhav has all the ingredients to successfully slip in the role of a finisher. He is a part-time keeper. He can also bowl off-breaks, just like Raina.

He is a package.

He can make up for the lost time and go on to have a successful career like Michael Hussey.

It is the game of consistency and the real test of character and his path to legacy starts now.