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India vs England: Jayant Yadav is a natural fit in Virat Kohli's scheme of things

Jayant Yadav is the find of this home season, obviously!

At Kanpur, in the first Test against New Zealand, Virat Kohli decided to delay the declaration in the second innings a bit. Later, in the post-match conference, it was revealed that he wanted Ravindra Jadeja to get it to his half century. After all, India weren't really pressed for time.

 India vs England: Jayant Yadav is a natural fit in Virat Kohlis scheme of things

Jayant Yadav after scoring a century on Day 4 of the 4th Test against England in Mumbai. AP

"It helps build up the player's confidence," said Kohli in Kanpur. Such tactics aren't really out of place, and it obviously pays off at a later stage. For example, Jadeja did help India out of a troublesome situation against England in the third Test at Mohali.

In that match, England, having won the toss and opted to bat, were placed at 51/1 after the first hour's play on day one. Kohli handed the ball to Jayant Yadav, playing his second Test. Usually his go-to man is Ravichandran Ashwin, for obvious reasons. Perhaps this move was to be classified under another confidence-building exercise.

As the skipper later explained, it wasn't really so. "He is pretty confident of his skills, which has been pretty evident and which only comes with professionalism. He practises his skills very well. He is fit, he understands the game, and he is an intelligent guy," the captain said.

Some players need time, for the step up from first-class to Test cricket is a significant one. It was so when Jadeja had come to the limelight back in 2012-'13. Then skipper MS Dhoni had underlined the importance of building him up to be a useful all-rounder in the lower order, and it has finally come to pass. But, this isn't about Jadeja.

It is about Jayant, belonging to the other class of players, who do not need that incubation period. They arrive on the international scene, and just belong there, a natural fit in the scheme of things.

For Jayant, 2016 has been a whirlwind year. Until last season, despite some heady showings with both bat and ball in the Ranji Trophy, he wasn't really on the fringes of selection to the senior team in any format. In that light, things took a positive turn when Delhi Daredevils brought in Rahul Dravid as mentor.

Jayant had been signed by the franchise in 2015, but featured in only three matches. It didn't change much this season either, as he featured in only five matches. The chance to interact with Dravid, and work with him behind the scene, was a real bonus though.

The legendary batsman, who now doubled up as junior India coach, had had his eye on Jayant for some time, and their proximity during the two months of the Indian Premier League (IPL) further strengthened the notion that he was the next Indian spinner to watch out for.

Things moved quickly for Jayant thereafter. He was on the flight to Zimbabwe for the short limited overs tour, as senior players were rested. IPL performances were the parameter, as the then chief selector Sandeep Patil pointed out. But for someone to be included based on a return of two wickets in five matches was odd. Clearly, Dravid's input had reached the right quarters, and it was again apparent when Jayant also made the trip with India A Down Under.

With Anil Kumble coming in, the channel of communication working between Dravid and him, as well as the selectors, was evident. Jayant was even called up as a back up off-spin option during the New Zealand Test series. However, impressions can only do so much. Performances amount to more, especially when the chance presents itself.

Amit Mishra dropped the ball, as it were, in the first Test of the ongoing series against England in Rajkot, in terms of both batting and bowling. So, when Kohli decided that he needed an alternate third spinner in his attack, Jayant made it count. There has been no looking back since.

"He (Jayant) comes across as a very balanced individual. He has shown a lot of character and maturity for a youngster coming into the team. It augurs well that someone who has just come into the team has shown that kind of approach," said Kumble after the first Test.

Jayant took 3/30 in the second innings in the second Test at Visakhapatnam. In Mohali he returned figures of 2/49 and 2/21. Mumbai was an early learning experience as he was punished in the first innings, and didn't have any answers to control the scoring rate. The real contribution though has come with the bat. His lowest score in this Test series has been 27 not out, with a maiden half-century in Mohali and a maiden Test hundred in Mumbai.

The spotlight has been on his batting approach of course. There is a sane head on those shoulders, and he is always looking to adapt to different situations. He knew how to play second fiddle in Mohali with Jadeja. In Mumbai, as England went defensive against Kohli, he knew the need to up the scoring ante with the bat. "At one point, he was matching me shot for shot," said the captain, recounting their assault on the morning of day four at the Wankhede.

It has led to an immediate debate over his batting spot, but the calmness in his approach and his knack of not getting carried away were evident when this question was put to Jayant. "I got my first class double hundred at No 9. I got my maiden Test hundred at No 9. I am happy batting at No 9," he said, inducing much laughter.

Yes, with India's lower order performing so well, a lot has been said about Jayant's contributions with the bat. At the same time, his role as a third spinner cannot be neglected, especially when Kohli points out that Jayant is keen to set his own fields despite his relative inexperience.

"He knows exactly where he wants to bowl. Sometimes I ask for the mid-on to be back, he urges me to keep it up, he wants the batsmen to go after him," the skipper said.

It underlines the difference in approach from Ashwin, who tends to keep the mid-on back. Both want the batsmen to go after them, but there is a difference in thinking. It negates the theory that two off-spinners cannot operate in the same team. Indeed the results have shown otherwise, particularly given how Ashwin and Jayant have even operated in tandem at certain instances when two left-handers are at the crease.

It silences the debate for the role of a third spinner conclusively. Mishra obviously loses out because leg-spinners are rhythm bowlers and need the backing of their captain to play a pivotal role. With Ashwin-Jadeja available, Kohli cannot expand this concentration to Mishra, and Jayant, meanwhile, steps in with ease, silently content with the few overs he gets to bowl.

Sure, his role in overseas conditions cannot be foreseen just yet. Even so, Jayant does provide a certain stability in terms of the playing combination at home. In his short stint as a Test cricketer, he has plugged the one gap missing in Kohli's team - the fifth bowler - which otherwise looks a finished product.

To be able to ascertain that, halfway through a long home season, points to the discernible truth - Jayant is a precious find for Indian cricket.

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Updated Date: Dec 14, 2016 17:17:01 IST

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