“Of course, we knew that he (Kumar Kartikeya) would bowl the first over. They were doing some tricks, like trying some stuff mentally, which I’ve seen them doing earlier,” said Yashasvi Jaiswal. “For example, the ‘keeper goes far back and the fast bowler walks up to his run-up but all along we knew that Kartikeya is going to bowl. We were literally ready.”
Madhya Pradesh had tried to surprise the Mumbai openers on day one of the Ranji Trophy final by opening the bowling with the left-arm spinner but Jaiswal wasn’t getting flustered. As soon as the early nerves settled, he hit Kartikeya for a couple of boundaries which got him out of the attack for a while.
Under a heavy cloud cover, with the MP seamers making the ball jag around, Jaiswal yet again provided solidity to the Mumbai batting. Following scores of 35 and 101 in the quarter-finals, and 100 and 181 in the semi-finals, Jaiswal has now added to 78 in the final. No other Mumbai batsman made a half-century despite all getting starts. It showed that a batsman was never really settled on this surface, and also drove home the quality of Jaiswal’s knock.
Coming into the Ranji knockouts with the experience of a solitary first-class game, 20-year-old Jaiswal has displayed a level of maturity that veteran batsmen would be proud of. He’s gone after the bowling when he’s had to, left superbly and consistently outside off-stump, and even gone into a shell when batting time has been the requirement.
Like he did in the second innings of the semi-final against Uttar Pradesh, when he took as many as 54 deliveries to score his first run. And according to Jaiswal, he got off the mark at that point only because Ankit Rajpoot drifted too far down the legside and the left-hander tickled it for four. He went on to face a mammoth 372 balls in his innings of 181.
The opening day of the final presented a different challenge at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. The ball was doing so much at one point that a couple of deliveries from seamer Gaurav Yadav hurtled towards Prithvi Shaw like ripping off-breaks.
“At the start, the wicket was damp and it was easier to hit the spinners but not the fast bowlers,” said Jaiswal. “It was not just seaming. It was almost spinning from the fast bowlers at times. It was not an easy wicket to bat on. The whole day it was cloudy, and now (when he was talking to reporters) it has become sunny.”
Jaiswal and Shaw ensured the runs kept coming in the first session. The left-hander said he knew MP would start bowling wider after that, and was happy to bid his time when they did during the middle phase of his knock.
As MP came back to strike repeatedly in the second session, Jaiswal took charge at the other end. In the same Yadav over in which Sarfaraz Khan survived a close leg-before shout, Jaiswal took pressure off with a straight drive for four and later sent another four to the third man rope.
With the older ball still doing a bit, but not as much as earlier, he started going for his drives and punches more often. Even the ball he got out to was there to be hit, he felt. “But I did not convert the shot properly,” and he thick-edged Anubhav Agarwal to gully off the 163rd ball he faced.
By then, he’d beaten two sessions in difficult conditions to give his side a reasonable platform. He couldn’t make it a fourth successive hundred, but as he said, this innings came with its own set of challenges in a final. He won’t be any less proud of it than he was of the three preceding tons.