Kedar Jadhav comes across as a street-smart cricketer, bowling seemingly innocuous, but effective off-spin, without looking like caring little about his bowling.
By his own admission, Kedar Jadhav doesn’t like to bowl much at the nets. Perhaps because of his unusual run-up to the crease and slingy action, most batsmen presumably don't take his bowling very seriously.
However, since the One-Day International (ODI) against New Zealand in Dharamshala in 2016, when MS Dhoni — then leading the side — handed over the ball to Jadhav for the first time in international cricket, he has developed this happy knack of picking wickets at crucial junctures.
Bowling has certainly added a new dimension to his game. Albeit a part-timer, Jadhav ends up bowling fairly regularly for India. And more or less, he makes his presence felt — like he did against Pakistan in Wednesday’s Asia Cup fixture in Dubai.
The 33-year-old comes across as a street-smart cricketer, a bit like Virender Sehwag, one might add. Incidentally, Sehwag bowled seemingly innocuous, but effective, off-spin too, without looking like caring little about his bowling.
However, as is often the case, looks can be deceptive. Jadhav, while appearing to take his bowling easy, bowled to a plan and choked the Pakistani middle order with his three wickets at an economy of 2.55 runs per over.
"Kedar has been working on his bowling, and he takes his bowling seriously. It augurs well for the team, and the wickets are a bonus for us. His overs in middle are very crucial, especially after Hardik's (Pandya) injury," skipper Rohit Sharma said at the post-match presentation.
Jadhav varies his pace and trajectory very aptly according to the feet movement of the batsman. In one delivery he will bend his knees to release the ball from a lower trajectory, right beside his ears, whereas on next occasion, the release point would be much higher. Along with those variations, he knows to use the crease as well.
Interestingly, in the post-match press conference, when asked about his bowling, Jadhav once again clarified that he likes to keep things simple. “I feel if I try too hard to be a bowler, I don't want to compromise on the other skills that I already have! So I try to be in my limits,” he said.
From a batsman’s point of view, Jadhav may seem harmless at first, but facing his variations is not exactly a cakewalk. Batsmen fall into his trap when they try to be reckless, as Sarfraz Ahmed found out. The Pakistan captain wanted to hit a full ball out of the park, but couldn’t get the elevation right and substitute fielder Manish Pandey took an excellent running catch on the wide long-on boundary. He is also particularly effective against the left-handed batsmen, primarily because of the angle he creates with his slingy action. So, the batsman is always prone to LBW to a straighter one, or to the one that doesn't turn enough while playing for the turn, thanks largely to his round-arm action.
His next scalp Asif Ali was a bit unlucky, when he edged a shortish ball outside off-stump to Dhoni. Shadab Khan was done in by a good ball — he came forward to drive, but the ball sneaked past his outside edge and Dhoni completed the stumping.
Eventually, Jadhav returned with his career-best figures of 9-1-23-3. It turned out to be an excellent workout for someone whose primary job is to put a check on opposition’s run-scoring. In past also, Jadhav has made an impact as a bowler. Remember, the Champions Trophy semi-final last year when he snapped the momentum from Bangladesh’s innings by removing two set batsmen — Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim.
In 23 innings across 42 ODIs Jadhav has 19 wickets at 29.63. With his all-round skills, Jadhav is an asset to India's limited-overs set-up, especially when they are playing on low and slow tracks. Considering that England will invariably roll out flat, batting-friendly tracks in next year's World Cup, Jadhav remains a vital cog in India's scheme of things.
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