Dheeraj Jadhav, the stylish Left Hand opener from Maharashtra has performed well than anybody else in the domestic circuit last year. He was also a part of the Indian Squad for the Fourth Test against Australia at Mumbai. With an average of 103 in the Ranji Trophy last year which included 3 double centuries and a century, Dheeraj Jadhav is competing with Gautam Gambhir for the opener’s spot in the Indian Test team. Cricketfundas.com’s Ashwat Ramani caught up with Dheeraj Jadhav on the 25th of November for this exclusive Interview.
Dheeraj…finally your efforts have been noticed by the selectors and the selection for the Mumbai test justifies that! How do you feel about it?
I felt very happy, when I came to know that I was selected for my performances at the domestic level. I was in the Mumbai Test Squad but didn’t get to play that match; even then I was very happy to share the dressing room with the players whom I used to idolize upon in my childhood.
How did you feel when you got to know about your selection?
Well, to be frank I did have the confidence inside me that I will be selected after that very successful domestic season. And some of the Indian players weren’t doing well at that time. Of course, getting selected for the National team is a big honour and I am still eager to wear my first Test cap.
Dheeraj, you scored 3 double centuries and 1 century last season in the Ranji Trophy at an average of above 100 and followed it up with a 260 in Kenya. So did you at that time feel that playing for India was certain in the near future?
I think nothing is certain in Cricket. You should perform well in each and every match. You should always be prepared for your next match or the next series. When I was selected for India A, I made sure that I perform very well there so that I could at least come into reckoning for the squad against Australia and that exactly happened in the Mumbai Test.
Going back to your early days… how did you start playing cricket? Who was your role model?
I started playing cricket from my school days. Later on, I also played a lot of Inter-College Cricket. Ever since I started my cricket, Sourav Ganguly and Matthew Hayden were my idols. I just love the way they play the game and according to me they are amongst the best in present day cricket.
How great was it to share your dressing room with legends like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid?
It was a great feeling to share the dressing room with the Indian Greats. I used to watch their matches on TV and I couldn’t believe that I was in the dressing room with all the stars. John Wright was there with us and he was very helpful and guided me very nicely. I got some useful batting tips from Rahul Dravid and another cricketing legend in the form of Sunil Gavaskar.
Did you happen to talk with the Aussies at Mumbai? Did they give you any tips or suggestions?
The Australians were quite friendly with the Indian Team. I always wanted to meet Matthew Hayden, since he was my idol from my early days. He also helped me a lot in the nets and gave me some useful tips on my batting. He also asked me to be more positive in my batting.
What sort of impact has the Sairaj Bahutule – Sandeep Patil combination had on your career. Would you say, you grew as a player under them??
I think that was a very important phase of my career. Whenever you want to reach a particular level, your performances to reach that level have to be the best. To perform well, I think you should be given enough opportunities to prove yourself, because at the end of the day the most important thing is how many opportunities you got to prove yourself. Sairaj Bahutule and Sandeep Patil played a very important role in nurturing me as a cricketer as they were with the India A team for a long time. When we went to Kenya for the One Day Triangular Tournament, I didn’t expect them to pick me in the final eleven. But from Match No.1 they told me that I was playing all the One dayers, and they asked me to be mentally prepared and play well to make my way into the national team. I think that boosted my confidence a lot and I can’t stop thanking them for giving me enough opportunities to prove my mettle.
You also represented Air India in the Mumbai’s Times Shield Competition. So how competitive is Club Cricket in Mumbai?
Actually, my cricketing career started in Mumbai. I did my schooling in Mumbai, so that’s where I started playing Cricket. Playing for Air India has always been very beneficial. The Inter Office Tournaments like the Times Shield are very important for any cricketer, because you get lot of practice playing these games. It’s just like Ranji Trophy, where you have to face many talented cricketers from all the other teams.
How do you compare the standards of the plate division with the elite division?
Well, I don’t think there is much of a difference apart from the teams that play. In the Elite level, you have good teams as a result of which the competition is good compared to the plate level. And, if you perform well here, you directly come into the reckoning of the Indian Selectors.
How good a coach has Paras Mhambrey been to Maharashtra?
I think the way Paras has worked with us last year; he has been very helpful to the entire Maharashtra team. The way he has worked with my batting and the other cricketing departments, I think I have improved a lot under him. Paras has a lot of experience playing for Mumbai and he also has lifted the Ranji Trophy in 2002 with Mumbai. So having such a coach helps the whole team.
What’s your agenda for Ranji Trophy 2004-05? Do you think Maharashtra can win it?
I think our team is a very balanced team right now. I think we have the potential to reach the Semis this year and I hope we work according to our potential. As a player, I will take every match as it comes and will give my best so that I am picked in the Indian team in the near future.
When can we see Dheeraj Jadhav back into the Indian Squad?
Well, I haven’t thought about it yet, but if you see I am still a part of the Indian Team. The Indian team has been doing well off late and I think I will get a chance in the near future. My role is to do well at the domestic level and the rest is upto the selectors.
Recently, we saw Gautam Gambhir scoring 96 in the 1st Test against South Africa at Kanpur. So when somebody with whom you are competing for a place in the side does well, what goes through your mind?
Well, actually myself and Gautam have played together quite a lot of times. Recently, he performed well and the Indian Team did well. At the end of the day, the team performing well is more important than Gautam Gambhir or Dheeraj Jadhav performing well. The whole team is ahead of an individual and cricket is a team game, not an individual game.
Any Message to Cricketfundas.com?
Cricketfundas.com is a very good website, since it updates everybody so well about the Indian Domestic Cricket. People who log on to this website come to know about the young and upcoming cricketers who are performing well. That’s why for me this is one of the best websites and I wish you guys all the best for the future.