Indian selectors sent a strong message to the domestic cricketers by roping in Dinesh Karthik ahead of misfiring Manish Pandey in the series opener against New Zealand in Mumbai. Karthik had a prolific run in the domestic season and was roped in for his rich form in shorter formats. Pandey failed to make a huge impact in the ODI and T20I series against Australia and was subsequently dropped from the ODI side.
Kedar Jadhav has been a promising candidate in the middle-order, but his willow has remained silent off late and floundered after emphatic starts. The race for the middle-order is getting competitive day by day and with the domestic season in India already in progress, the pressure is always mounting. Players like Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and many are waiting for their chances.
It is understood if a batsman gets out early, but it’s cruel to be dismissed after getting a decent start. Conversion holds massive importance in contemporary cricket and one just can’t afford to let it go after getting used to the conditions and having found the feet.
Against Australia, Jadhav got a couple of good starts but didn’t convert into a big score. At Bengaluru, he played a solid innings, but India lost after being on the brink of a victory. In the T20I series, he got to bat on a single occasion but failed to fire in a crunch situation.
India are still struggling to find a long term solution to their No.4 and the problem has persisted for a while now. Although it hasn’t hurt them a lot as the top-order has been prolific while Hardik Pandya and the lower-order has yielded runs with the bat. Jadhav was given an opportunity to cement his spot at 4 against New Zealand, but he once again floundered after bidding his time at the crease.
Jadhav likes to attack, he doesn’t like to endure too many dot deliveries and typifies modern age cricket. But, against New Zealand, he looked cautions as the conditions had so much to offer to the bowlers. He was promoted, but the move didn’t pay off.
Jadhav needs stability with his batting position. No. 4 is a bit too early for a batsman of his style, he goes after the bowlers. He is at his best while batting at 6 as the numbers suggest; in 12 innings while batting at six, Jadhav has garnered 511 runs at a staggering average of 63.87. But his effectiveness takes a hit as soon as he bats at a different position. At 4, Jadhav averages 9 in three innings while at 5 and 7, he averages 32.66 and 27 in six and four innings respectively. Jadhav is prolific at six, but with Hardik Pandya firing consistently, shuffling the batting order as per the demand is being done more often.
Jadhav has also been dropped from the T20I side, which will lock horns against New Zealand after the completion of ODIs. It’s an indication of how only performance finds a place in the side. And Jadhav needs to pull up big time; the axe is certainly looming over him.
Contemporary cricket demands excellent fielding and all the teams are pulling up on that front. Skipper Virat Kohli himself sets high standards and has been a live wire on the field. Almost all the players in the side are amazing fielders and one can’t afford to step a foot wrong. Jadhav is an outstanding fielder despite being a wicket-keeping batsman. But, at times he is erratic on the field. For instance, on Sunday, he misjudged a simple catch at deep square leg, which resulted in a boundary.
When a batsman’s willow is yielding runs, instances like this gets overshadowed. But often this erratic fielding might work against him when the runs column is bare. Jadhav needs to pull up on both the fronts and try to secure his place if gets a chance in the remainder of the series.
Although he is a utility cricketer when it comes to bowling, that’s only a part-time option and needs to put his primary skill in force, which is batting. He is handy with the ball, providing much-needed breakthroughs, but can’t afford to sail solely on that.
India started the series as favourites, but a spirited display by New Zealand have infused momentum in the series. The series will now be alive till the final match as India will have to bounce back emphatically at Pune to remain alive in the series. New Zealand’s success against wrist-spin has certainly created a lot of trouble for India.
Will India make any change in the playing XI or will persist with the same playing XI? Will Jadhav get an opportunity to play in front of the home crowd? Time will unveil the mystery, but another failure will certainly compel India to reconsider the combination, perhaps, they might opt for a change now. For Jadhav, he needs to get his priorities straight and contribute as a batsman as well as a fielder.