Feroz Shah Kotla is a centrally located venue in Delhi, right where Old Delhi ends and New Delhi begins. So even Ranji Trophy matches attract crowds. This one, in October 2015, had a bigger turn-out than usual, because Virender Sehwag was playing for Haryana against his original team, Delhi.
At Kotla it's not too hard to wander close to the boundary ropes in a first-class game. A man walked up to Jayant Yadav, who was fielding at fine leg, and asked him if Yuzvendra Chahal was travelling with the squad. The man wanted an autograph from Chahal, who wasn't playing this match.
Chahal is an impressive legspinner, and just happened to be part of a state team who used to play home matches at a seamer's paradise. Autograph hunters, however, recognised him as the man who played on TV, for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. At a time where players were getting Test debuts based on IPL performances, Jayant was quietly putting in hundreds of overs in first-class cricket. You feared he would end up being that quiet toiler, a man reduced to procuring the autographs of his more famous colleagues.
The men who mattered were watching, though. Rahul Dravid was one of them. Retired from international cricket, and having made himself a name as Rajasthan Royals coach, Dravid took over India Under-19 and India A teams, the feeder into international cricket. He was impressed with what he saw of Jayant. He maintained he was the next spinner to watch out for, but it was when Anil Kumble became India's head coach that there was a direct flow of players from Dravid to Kumble.
Former India wicketkeeper MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors, is also a contemporary of theirs, so there could now be proper synergy between the man who provided, the man who approved and the man who utilised the final product.
It was on India A's tour of Australia that Jayant provided final evidence that he was a man worth investing in. It was with the bat that he did so. There were innings of 11 not out, 46 and 28, but both Prasad and Dravid saw proper temperament and application. He scored those runs after coming in at 196 for 6, 90 for 6 and 43 for 5. Kane Richardson, Jackson Bird and Chad Sayers bombed him in Brisbane, but he dealt with pace and bounce without fending or running away.
Jayant has shown much of the same in his short Test career. With the ball he brings a trajectory different to R Ashwin, but is confident enough to insist on having a mid-on up at a time when Virat Kohli, the captain, and Ashwin, the No. 1 bowler, prefer him back. He thinks reviews through, and doesn't act on emotion. He is also an excellent catcher at gully and, with time, he could perhaps be used to strengthen the cordon.
And with the bat Jayant is yet to fail in Test cricket, with a lowest score of 27 not out in four innings. He is not a lower-order batsman who looks to counter-attack and catch teams on the hop. He trusts his batting. He gets behind the line of the balls, drops his wrists when he sways away from the short ones, and backs himself to survive long enough for the bad balls to arrive. When they do arrive, he puts them away. He is spin bowling's Bhuvneshwar Kumar: you will play him when the conditions have assistance, and with the bat he will offer, at worst, solid resistance down the order.
By the time he walked out on day four, though, India had a 51-run lead in the bank on a tricky pitch, which had just been rolled into momentary friendliness, and Kohli was with him to keep the game moving. This was a time when he could have indulged. "To be very honest, when I came out to bat in the morning, I was just vying for the fifty because I was just 20 runs short," Jayant said. "I just went with the flow and things just kept happening."
As Jayant went with the flow, batting seemed easier and easier, and he capitalised on demoralised bowlers and the Kohli threat at the other end. In the first session he scored 62 to Kohli's 65. "They were attacking me more and they had very defensive fields against Virat," Jayant said, "so that gave me an opportunity to put away the bad balls and that is what I did."
Years of playing for Haryana, batting in seamer-friendly conditions at home and leading the attack in Mishra's absence when away, have helped Jayant develop his temperament. "I have always been a handy batsman, ever since I started playing in junior cricket," Jayant said. "But as I came up the ranks, I always wanted to build this side of my game, and my Ranji Trophy team really helped me do it.
"Even though I was batting down, I had responsibility so taking that responsibility, you really grow as an allrounder player. I would say a holistic development of a player."
This hundred - the first by an India No. 9 - should start another healthy rivalry in the Indian team: the batting aspect of the three spinners. Jayant is in no hurry to move up, though. "I scored my double-hundred at No. 9, I scored my first Test hundred at No. 9, I am happy at No. 9," he said.