Ishank Jaggi

Ishank Jaggi has 889 runs so far this season and four centuries, the best ever by a Jharkhand batsman. © Sunny Shende

When Ishank Jaggi walked out to resume his innings against Gujarat on 40 with his side 214 for 5, he looked a picture of calm. In fact, he had slept for barely three hours the previous night. Not because he was out till late but because he was nervous about how Tuesday’s (January 3) play would pan out. He didn’t let it show because he has learnt from MS Dhoni, Jharkhand’s most famous son, the art of reining in emotions.

Jharkhand were still 176 runs behind and it was vital to secure the first-innings lead in the Ranji Trophy 2016-17 semifinal. “If you have reached this stage, you don’t have the option to falter,” reflected Jaggi later in the day. “So it was difficult for me to sleep, I slept very less in fact. In the morning when I went I started hitting straightaway, capitalising on whatever loose balls I got. That was the only chance for me to get the team through. Defending and not getting runs wasn’t a good plan because one-odd delivery and you can be out. But if you are among the runs and the bowlers and fielders are not dominating, that is the time you can score. The plan worked out well.”

Jaggi ended up scoring 129 to take Jharkhand to 408 all out and a small but psychology-altering lead of 18 runs. That meant Gujarat couldn’t sit back and bat long – their strength – and were looking to force an outright win. In the end, they ended Day 3 on a precarious 100 for 4, and his innings drew lavish praise from Vijay Patel, the Gujarat coach. “He played brilliantly,” Patel told Wisden India. “The difference between Jharkhand’s batsmen and ours are they are more aggressive than us and it worked for them today. At 214 for 5, we definitely expected to get the first-innings lead but he batted well.”

For his part, Jaggi emphasised that his team wouldn’t take anything lightly. And while he stopped well short of predicting how the next two days would pan out, he was happy to elaborate on what went behind his innings.

“The best knock I’ve played for me was the Duleep Trophy final (in 2012-13). It was a much bigger occasion and a different sort of wicket, where no other batsman got runs and I got a century,” he said. “And East Zone winning the title for the second time, that will still remain a very big and special knock for me. This would be second best. I’ve done well this season too and a lot of my teammates had faith in me that I’ll get the team through and I’m happy I made it.

“The only disappointment I had was that I’m not the kind of batsman who gets out on a hundred. I like to score big hundreds, but today I don’t know what happened. I thought it was time to start hitting out and I missed out on that. That was the only thing I missed out on. For the rest, I’m very happy to get the team through to the first-innings lead.”

“When he (Saurabh Tiwary) scores runs I keep a track of it, when I score runs he keeps a track of it. And we have to be ahead! So that’s the reason I know. And my dad is a very stats-man kind of guy. He’s a doctor, he’ll be sitting in the clinic he’ll log on and check what has happened, what my score is, whether I’m in the top ten run-getters, the top catcher. He’s the only one who keeps me updated about these things.”

One other thing Jaggi did was break two of the records that belonged to Saurabh Tiwary, his captain and childhood friend. With this knock, Jaggi has 889 runs so far in this Ranji season, and four centuries. Tiwary held the previous records with 854 runs in 2013-14, and three centuries, in 2009-10 and 2012-13.

It was an achievement that Jaggi was well aware of – and so was his father.

“Since childhood Saurabh and me have been very good friends,” smiled Jaggi. “There has always been friendly competition between us. What happens is you see someone at that level and want to improve. He is one of the best batsmen I’ve seen in the domestic circuit. He’s having a somewhat bad phase – and he was unlucky in this game (given out lbw off an inside edge when looking good) – but he has still got around 600 runs [576]. Normally a batsman who hasn’t got a hundred will not get that many. He has played very vital knocks when the team required it – against Karnataka (91), Saurashtra (61), Vidarbha (45 and 35*) – everywhere he has chipped in.

“When he scores runs I keep a track of it, when I score runs he keeps a track of it. And we have to be ahead! So that’s the reason I know,” continued Jaggi, smile firmly in place. “And my dad is a very stats-man kind of guy. He’s a doctor, he’ll be sitting in the clinic he’ll log on and check what has happened, what my score is, whether I’m in the top ten run-getters, the top catcher. He’s the only one who keeps me updated about these things.”

If all goes well, Jaggi Sr. will probably have some more stats to keep track of.