Kedar Jadhav’s selection in India’s ODI squad for the West Indies series has raised a few eyebrows as the right-hander has been far from impressive in the last year or so. One of the qualities of the Indian ODI teams that were led by Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni was that there were one or more batsmen in the top six who could bowl and fit in the role of a sixth bowler when required. The likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh could bowl and help just in case one of the main bowlers got injured or had an off-day.
One of the main reasons India won the 2011 World Cup was that skipper Dhoni had the services of Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan who could fill in the role of fifth/sixth bowler which would provide them the luxury of playing an extra batsman or a bowler depending upon the match conditions.
Kedar Jadhav – Rise through the ranks
When Virat Kohli took over the reins of ODI captaincy from Dhoni back at the start of 2017, the likes of Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan were not a part of the squad and Yuvraj Singh had stopped bowling regularly. Thus Kedar Jadhav was the designated and recognized sixth bowler and he was impressive in the 2016 ODI series at home against New Zealand picking up vital wickets and filling in for the fifth bowler whenever required. Jadhav had made his ODI debut in 2014 against Sri Lanka but managed to score only 20 and was later ignored ahead of the preparation for the 2015 World Cup.
With Suresh Raina’s drop in form and Dhoni showing desire to bat higher up the order, India was in need of a new finisher. In 2015, India toured Zimbabwe for an ODI series and Jadhav scored a brilliant 105 not-out helping India win the game from the jaws of defeat as they were robbed early. Kedar showed the composure and temperament required at the start of his innings and then strung a brilliant partnership with Manish Pandey to finish off. Raina was then dropped and Jadhav began to get regular chances and under the captaincy of Kohli.
Jadhav and Hardik became the new finishers for the Indian batting with Dhoni batting at number five. In the first game of Kohli’s ODI captaincy, Jadhav hit a brilliant 120 at his home ground Pune helping India chase down a mammoth target of 356. India were reeling at 82 for 4 when Kedar Jadhav walked out and strung an amazing partnership with Kohli to help India chase down the target, thus cementing his place in the Indian team.
Jadhav, although being a street-smart cricketer, did not possess the might required to clear the boundary with ease, something that Dhoni has. Thus later in 2018, he was tried at number five with Dhoni coming to bat at six but he failed to live up to his expectations. In 2018, Jadhav scored just 87 runs in 11 games and questions began to rise about his place in the team. But more often than not, the brilliance of India’s top three Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli coupled with the late-hitting form of Hardik Pandya hid this huge middle-order crack that India had.
India almost got obsessed with the idea of playing the sixth bowler that it almost felt that Jadhav played in the eleven only because he could come in and bowl his part-time off-spin. Thus India had two major problems that were not solved- one was the number four position and other was the finishing the batting required. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal continued to bamboozle the batting order in India’s ODI series away against Australia and New Zealand but the middle-order merry-go-round did not seem to stop. Jadhav seemingly looked to have come back in form when he strung a partnership with MS Dhoni in the series decider against Australia and helped India win, playing a great knock of unbeaten 81. This innings almost certainly booked Jadhav’s berth in India’s World Cup 2019 squad.
India went into the World Cup with an untested middle-order possessing the likes of Vijay Shankar, Rishabh Pant and an out-of-form MS Dhoni. But they still managed to cruise in the tournament and only went down in a highly anticipated clash against the eventual champions England at Edgbaston. England put up a mammoth total of 337 and India needed a good start to chase down this target. Things looked promising for India till the time Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya were at the crease but India seemed to give up once both were out.
The kind of batting that followed shocked the Indian fans and both Dhoni and Jadhav were criticized by many former Indian players for not showing the required intent or desire to fight and win the game. Jadhav was then dropped and Dinesh Karthik replaced him, but India’s untested middle-order failed again in the semifinal against New Zealand and Ravindra Jadeja’s late heroics could not save India from losing the game and getting knocked out of the World Cup.
India’s next ODI assignment was a three-match ODI series away to the West Indies and Kedar Jadhav was again picked in the squad and India went in with Jadeja as the second spinner with a view to increasing the depth in batting. Jadhav was not required a lot as Kohli and Shreyas Iyer starred in the series as India won the series comfortably. India seems to have found an answer to their number four position with the form Shreyas Iyer showed but with Jadhav again picked in the squad, his credibility in the team has come under question.
With Jadeja showing maturity and great shot-selection in Tests and having played a blinder under pressure to almost winning the game for India in the semis, it is perplexing that the team management is not looking at Jadeja as the all-rounder and are backing Jadhav even though he has not been impressive in crunch situations. In a career spanning 68 ODIs, he has 1289 runs at an impressive average of 42.19 but after having a terrible World Cup where he scored only 80 runs in six innings, time is running out for Jadhav to prove his worth in the playing eleven. Neither did he have a great domestic season to boast about his place in the squad let alone the paying eleven so only time will tell whether Jadhav is rightly backed by the team management or is it just another overrated backing from the management for the 34-year-old.