Ravindra Jadeja had been spanked in his first spell for 36 runs against Sri Lanka, something strange happened at the Oval. Jasprit Bumrah bowled an over as Virat Kohli wanted to exert control over the situation. Who would he give the next over to, was the underlying question though?
Hardik Pandya came on. Until then, he had sent down four overs for 0-22, a decent spell considering the carnage against Jadeja. But Kusal Mendis smacked him for three boundaries in that 26th over, and the Indian skipper was in a quandary once again. Again, Kohli was left wondering, whom to bowl?
The Indian skipper wanted to give Bumrah another go, and the pacer took off his jumper, getting ready to bowl. Suddenly, there was activity from behind the stumps, and MS Dhoni was in conversation with Kohli. There was a change of plans, and Kohli decided to bring on Kedar Jadhav for some part-time spin.
It was a desperate move, intriguing even. When the Indian squad for this 2017 Champions Trophy was picked, the team had adequate options in pace, if not in spin. Kohli opted for only the one spinner in the first two games, and yet it seemed all bases were covered. Truth told, no one ever expected an inexperienced Lankan batting line-up to chase down 300-plus. So, when Jadhav did come on to bowl, Kohli’s worst fears had come to realisation — his five-pronged, lone-spinner attack was not good enough.
Jadhav didn’t bowl in the two warm-up matches — he didn’t expect to. Come to think of it, he didn’t have a proper hit in middle, only getting the chance to bat in the warm-up against Bangladesh (scored 31 off 38 balls). Thereafter, Jadhav didn’t bat against Pakistan as Pandya was sent ahead to smash the ball around. Until the moment he came on to bowl at the Oval, Jadhav’s contribution had been restricted to some poor fielding in the Pakistan game and 25* off 13 balls against Lanka.
At best, Jadhav is a bit-part player in any Indian eleven. He is not there to make up the numbers, no, for his contributions late down the order are particularly valued. But let it be said here that he only comes into the game when other aspects of India’s batting — and now bowling, apparently — have failed, particularly in these conditions.
Harsh as it may sound, it is a story that goes back to last autumn, when he was first asked to bowl against New Zealand. Dhoni was the skipper back then. There is hardly ever an ODI he has led in, wherein the former captain hasn’t deployed part-timers. Even when the rules shifted towards pace bowling, with the advent of two new balls in October 2012, Dhoni didn’t stop using part-timers.
Sure, the manner in which he used them went down considerably, for the rule-changes forced him to plan ahead for the 2015 ODI World Cup. There was no way India could win that tournament in Australia-New Zealand using only four full-time bowlers, inclusive of only two pacers, and thus, Dhoni changed the team’s combination permanently.
In that sense, Yuvraj Singh’s absence from India’s ODI plans since 2013 helped. Dhoni played with a batsman short and used Suresh Raina as the back-up bowler in case any of his five full-time bowlers wasn’t able to complete his ten-over quota. Even so, in bowler-friendly conditions Down Under, the propensity to use a slow part-timer was reduced. Raina bowled only 15 overs in four games in the 2015 World Cup, for example. Now, Jadhav is in the Indian team as Raina’s replacement, after the search to identify personnel for this tournament had intensified in 2016.
At this juncture, sample this: it was in Dharamsala, where Jadhav bowled for the first time in his ODI career. On a pacey, green wicket, New Zealand were struggling at 57/5 after 16 overs when Dhoni asked Jadhav to bowl. Was he afraid the Kiwis would run away with the game and so brought on the part-timer? Was he worried one of the bowlers would not complete his quota as the last five batsmen would bat out 50 overs? Nope, none of that; it was simply a Dhoni-habit.
“From the time I have been in this Indian team, I have been spending a lot of time with MS Dhoni, trying to soak in all the knowledge he has. I share a bond with him and if I can read from his eyes as to what he wants me to bowl, I just try to bowl that delivery. And it works,” said a beaming Jadhav, after his 2/22 in a six-over spell broke Bangladesh’s back in the second semi-final at Birmingham.
In summation, Jadhav is the quintessential product of Dhoni’s affinity towards part-time bowling, and is now an important element of Kohli’s team. It would be funny, almost, if it weren’t serious business of an ICC tournament final. In the Test arena, it is pretty straightforward for Kohli, who rotates his strike bowlers very well. Herein, most of the time, he doesn’t need to look beyond Ashwin and Jadeja. The shorter formats are different, as they test your imagination in their limited time frame, and he is still only learning tricks of the trade. It helps that Kohli has Dhoni — and his minions — to guide/help him.
Going ahead then, against Pakistan on Sunday, the quandary is again pertaining to Ashwin. Kohli left him out in the first game because he considered the arch-rivals good players of spin. Things have changed since then. The element of swing is forever missing, and India’s fifth bowler is leaking runs. What does Kohli do now?
Maybe, he would want to ask Dhoni, again. And knowing the former captain’s affinity for part-timers, Jadhav might just get to bowl a full quota of 10 overs for the first time in his ODI career on Sunday.
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Updated Date: Jun 17, 2017 08:29:18 IST