Cricket

India vs New Zealand: In T20 World Cup year, it is time Men in Blue looked beyond Kedar Jadhav

  • Yash Jha
  • February 8th, 2020
  • 20:12:47 IST

Kedar Jadhav’s ODI career statistics make for pretty good reading: 1389 runs from 52 innings, at an average of 42.09 and a strike rate of 101.60. 41 of these 52 innings have been played from number six or seven, which means a more-than-sizeable number of not outs - 19, or more than one-third of the total sample - which obviously does inflate the average.

Kedar Jadhav has rarely been used as a bowler by Virat Kohli in ODIs. AP

Kedar Jadhav has rarely been used as a bowler by Virat Kohli in ODIs. AP

But take into account the thanklessness of playing a finishing role in the Indian team that Jadhav has been part of. One where the top-three do the bulk of the scoring and the vast majority of the influencing; Jadhav, believe it or not, has faced 50 or more deliveries on only 10 occasions - while 31 of his ODI knocks for India have comprised less than 25 balls.

All things said and all factors considered, there’s not a lot to complain about when you examine Jadhav the ODI batsman. His journey in this Indian side, largely through the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup, was about fulfilling a very specific role, plugging a very specific hole. If you’re being critical, you might argue that he was a square-peg-for-a-round-hole - but that would be ignoring the reality of his low-frill-no-fanfare existence in this setup.

As India sought to work out their World Cup puzzle, Jadhav, by virtue of being among the only batting contenders with bowling capabilities, was positioned as a necessity. But how convinced were the team management about their own line of thinking? By the time the crunch stage of that campaign in England arrived, Jadhav was deemed surplus to the requirements of the XI. He didn’t feature in last two group games, and wasn’t selected for the semi-final either, with India preferring to go without any sixth bowling option in a bid to bolster their batting for the business end of the competition.

All that’s in the past though; let bygones be bygones.

We’re nearly seven months on from the World Cup, and just over eight months away from the next global event - the T20 World Cup in Australia. With that being the first of two T20 World Cups in the space of 13 months, the shortest format, quite obviously, is high on the priority list; even ODIs, to an extent, are being played with a view towards firming up for the T20 test.

Kedar Jadhav is nowhere in the scheme of things for that tournament - he played the last of his nine T20Is in October 2017. Kedar Jadhav will have turned 38 by the time the next ODI World Cup - as long away as 2023 - comes along. Kedar Jadhav has not, at any point in his international career, held a reputation as a slick fielder.

File image of Kedar Jadhav. Sportzpics

File image of Kedar Jadhav. Sportzpics

And guess what? Kedar Jadhav, the bowler - the multi-dimensional utility that made him a fixture of the previous bid for world glory - isn’t even being used anymore. He’s delivered 10 overs in eight outings since the end of the World Cup, and hasn’t been called upon once in the last four games he’s been part of - one of which was a contest where India abjectly failed to defend 347, with two bowlers going for 80 or more runs.

Bafflingly enough, it’s not a post-World Cup discovery either: in his last 14 ODIs, Jadhav has bowled all of 16 overs. 16 wicketless overs.

What that would/should mean is that India are happy enough with Jadhav as a pure batting pick in their selections post the World Cup. The numbers? Seven innings, 135 runs at a strike rate of 109.76, only one knock above 30, high score 40.

He still continues to bat in those thankless positions, so maybe those numbers aren’t that bad? But here’s what Ravindra Jadeja - who almost certainly bats in more thankless situations than Jadhav - has done in the same time-period: Seven innings, 176 runs at a strike rate of 93.12, one half-century, plus an unbeaten 31-ball 39 to marshall a tricky 300+ chase in a series-decider (while contributing with the ball, regularly, and in the field, always).

Add to all this the fact that India aren’t exactly dry on replacement options. Warming the bench on the ongoing tour of New Zealand itself are Manish Pandey and Rishabh Pant. Pandey, who made 89 unbeaten at a strike rate above 150 in the preceding T20Is, and amassed 505 runs at an average above 100 in the domestic 50-over competition not too long ago. Pant, who until very recently, was India’s big limited-overs hope (and happens to have a 12-year buffer on Jadhav). And if you wanted to go in with someone offering potential overs with the ball, the same squad also has Shivam Dube. Also in New Zealand at this moment, although with the India ‘A’ squad, you’ll find Vijay Shankar and Krunal Pandya.

Point established: There exists no vacuum as far as options go for the Indian ODI setup. So, really - what, exactly, is the point of persisting with Kedar Jadhav in the Indian ODI setup?

To be amply clear, this is no blinded criticism of Jadhav, and his ability as an ODI batsman. In fact, let’s go a step further and laud what he’s accomplished while fulfilling a largely-fruitless role.

In all men’s ODI cricket, 389 batsmen have scored over 1000 runs. Of these 389, there are 64 who have scored their runs at an average of 40 or above. But in nearly five decades of 50-over cricket, there are only five batsmen to have scored that with an average over 40 and a strike rate in excess of 100. This elusive list includes AB de Villiers (enough said), and three English World Cup winners - Jos Buttler, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow. The fifth name on the list? Kedar Jadhav.

But you’ve probably come across that line, right? “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.”

If you have to build an argument in his favour, you will find the data to do so. But this isn’t, by any stretch, a ‘have-to’ moment. This isn’t an hour for stop-gaps. This isn’t last-chance-salon time. There’s no need to fit square pegs in round holes.

This is a unit which only recently went into a mega-event with one spot being more of a hole than a role (read: number four) - and, in the final readings, paid the price for the same. India don’t want to be repeating the same mistake the next time they take a crack at the big one.

Updated Date: February 08, 2020 20:12:47 IST

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