Narayan Jagadeesan Q&A: All I do is control the controllables, that is me playing cricket

CSK releasing him 'was their choice... it wasn’t mine' says Jagadeesan, the man in the limelight after shattering several records.

ByQaiser Mohammad Ali

Published Nov 23, 2022 | 9:30 AMUpdatedDec 01, 2022 | 6:13 PM

Narayan Jagadeesan

Renowned coach Ramakant Achrekar once coached his father. And the father, Rajan Narayan, encouraged his talented son Narayan Jagadeesan to play cricket. On 21 November, Tamil Nadu opener-wicketkeeper shattered a spate of world and national records as he hammered a world-record 277 (141 balls, 25x4s, 15x6s, strike rate 196.45) against Arunachal Pradesh in the Vijay Hazare Trophy at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru.

Jagadeesan, who turns 27 on 24 December, broke Alistair Brown’s two-decade old world record of 268, scored for Surrey against Glamorgan in a List A match (40-60 overs games). Before that, he broke Prithvi Shaw’s 227 for Mumbai against Puducherry in 2021 — the highest score in Vijay Hazare Trophy history.

It was Jagadeesan’s fifth consecutive century in the premier one-day tournament — another world record. His 416-run opening-wicket partnership with B Sai Sudharsan (154) was also a record for any wicket. So far, Jagadeesan has amassed 799 runs (average 159.80, strike rate 125.82) in six matches, and is on the verge of dismantling Shaw’s highest season aggregate of 827, scored in the previous season.

He is just 29 short of breaking Shaw’s record, and it could come in Tamil Nadu’s next match against Kerala on 23 November in Bengaluru.

In the middle of Jagadeesan’s golden streak came the news that Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have released him for IPL 2023. CSK had bought Jagadeesan at his base price of ₹20 lakh at the previous IPL auction.

But it seems that instead of getting disheartened, the adverse development motivated him. The day the CSK news came, 15 November, he scored the second of his five centuries. Now, after his stupendous run with the bat, Jagadeesan is expected to be hot property at the 23 December IPL auction.

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Jagadeesan has been happily doing the arduous task of keeping wickets and opening the innings for many years, with a “conditioned” body. He is also an MBA, from Sri Ramakrishna College of Arts and Science, Coimbatore. On his rare combination of an MBA degree and professional cricket, Jagadeesan merely says: “Obviously, everybody wants to have a degree and I was happy to have one.”

A man of few words, Jagadeesan spoke to South First in an exclusive interview after hitting his record fifth consecutive century. Excerpts:

Q: Now, two Indians, including you, hold two important records in first-class and List A cricket. Bihar’s Sakibul Gani cracked 341 on his first-class debut this February, against Mizoram in the Ranji Trophy.

A: It feels good. I mean when you say Indians, it is always a very nice thing.

Q: Did you have anything in mind when you went in to bat against Arunachal Pradesh, having scored four consecutive centuries?

A: No, not really. I was just very focussed on the process I have been following in all the matches and I was trying to do the same thing again and again.

Q: What is the process that you follow, normally?

A: It is just about being calm. I just try to make myself feel relaxed and be calm. That is the kind of process I follow, and I was trying to do the same thing (against Arunachal Pradesh).

Q: Were you aware of the record when you were getting close to it?

A: No, not really. I got to know about it after I got out.

Q: No one from the dressing room sent any message to the middle when you were batting?

A: No. My teammates knew that I was focussed on what was happening in the present and I wasn’t looking at anything ahead of me, so (they) helped me by not telling me anything and just letting me play.

Q: Before the toss in the game against Arunachal, you must be high on confidence, having scored four centuries on the trot. Were you feeling in the “zone”, as they say?

A: No, definitely not. I started my innings just like any other game. I was very nervous before going in, just like any other game. It was about first getting my eye in. Later, when things worked out and when I felt that I could take them on (the opposition bowlers), I went after them.

Q: At what stage did you realise that a fifth consecutive century was within your grasp?

A: Not at any given point in time. I wasn’t even thinking about that. I was just trying to play the ball on its merit — each and every ball. I was just going ball by ball.

Q: If I ask about 200 and 250…

A: It was the same. I was just following my instincts.

Q: You broke several records with your fifth straight century. One more record you can break — the highest aggregate of 827 runs in one Vijay Hazare Trophy season.

A: I wasn’t aware of it. And I don’t think I would be focussed on that. I think it’s very important for me to stay in the present and keep doing the same things again and again, and try and help my team win.

Q: Looking ahead to the near future, how do you plan to maintain focus, form, and fitness, now that you have scored so many runs?

A: It doesn’t change. I have been putting in the hard yards; nothing has come easy. So, I will be putting in the hard yards and would like to keep doing the same things again and again and work more.

Q: The Chennai Super Kings released you recently (ahead of the upcoming IPL auction). Did that motivate you to focus more in the Vijay Hazare Trophy?

A: No, not at all. That is something that was not in my control. It was their choice (to release me) and it wasn’t mine. All I could do was control the controllables, that is me playing cricket. So, I was just keen and focused on that.

Q: The ultimate aim of anyone who plays cricket or any other sport is to represent the country. I’m sure that thought would be there in your mind too.

A: For any cricketer in India, the ultimate goal is to be part of the Indian team.

Q: You are just one month shy of turning 27. In relation to my earlier question of breaking into the Indian team, how do you look at yourself age-wise?

A: I am not worried about that (smiles). Like I said, I am trying to remain in the present.

Q: Since there are limited slots available in the Indian ODI team, or maybe the T20 team, and the competition is getting tougher by the year, what are views on the competition as such?

A: Honestly, I am not even thinking about that. I am playing this tournament and I am just focussing on what is coming up. I am just trying to stay in the present, so I am not thinking about that stuff. It is just about preparing for the next match that is coming up.

Q: Opening the innings and keeping wickets is a tough ask, though some people are doing it at the highest level of the game. How do you maintain the intensity through the day?

A: That is something I have been doing from a very small age. That’s why you work on fitness. And that is something that my body is also conditioned to do. And since I’ve been a wicket-keeper from a very small age, by now I have got used to it. Obviously, playing cricket demands a tough attitude.