He is a week shy of turning 38. It's been almost two years since he last featured in a first-class game. It wouldn't be a surprise then for a domestic cricket aficionado to learn about Dheeraj Jadhav embarking upon a coaching assignment. But the man himself isn't yet ready to call it quits when it comes to taking his staunch left-handed stance at the crease.
“I still wish to play. I have been playing Times Shield for Air India, my employer. And I have been scoring runs. I think I will still wait for another year to see if there are any playing opportunities,” Jadhav, the newly appointed Assam Under-16 and Under-23 coach, told Sportstar from Pune, his hometown.
Pune maybe his home for the last two decades. But it's been a decade since Jadhav played last for Maharashtra. His superlative stint as Maharashtra opener – especially during a memorable 2003-04 season followed by a fruitful India A tour to Zimbabwe and Kenya, better remembered for the rise of a certain Mahendra Singh Dhoni – had earned him a call-up to India's Test squad as a back-up opener for the last Test against Australia in 2004 and the tour to Zimmbwe the following year.
However, Jadhav doesn't even want to go back so far. In fact, he admits that his decision to take on the coaching role with a team that he represented for five years ever since returning to the BCCI fold after a stint with the Indian Cricket League was more or less prompted due to lack of choice.
“I wanted to be involved in the game. After playing for Goa two season ago, last year I had to be on the sidelines. Sadly in domestic cricket, age is considered more than performance when it comes to hiring professionals. And once you are away from the mainstream set-up for long, people tend to forget you quickly,” Jadhav said, adding that coaching has always been a part of plans after calling it quits.
“I think I can contribute to player-development. So when Assam offered the role to me, I thought I should take it up. I hope the learnings from the ECB coaching courses (Jadhav has been a certified Level B coach of the England & Wales Cricket Board) will come in handy. Besides, the Assam Cricket Association officials have also asked me to keep myself fit, so if an opportunity arises, I would be delighted to contribute on the field as well.”