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Messed up? Dial Kedar Jadhav @Housekeeping.

by Naked Cricket


Kedar Jadhav finishes a game. Remains unbeaten. After that, a Test series or some T20s are played and everyone forgets about him, what he does, what he can do.

In a few weeks, Kedar Jadhav will be 34. He made his ODI debut in 2014. He wasn’t a part of the 2015 World Cup. In all likelihood, he will play in this year’s edition. Doubtful though, he will he be part of India’s 2023 World Cup plans.

Kedar Jadhav is a transitory cricketer. It’s almost as if his sole purpose is this World Cup. He’s there to fill India’s many gaps. Whether he is the fifth or sixth bowler is unclear. He’s often an afterthought bowler. The kind of afterthought, that in hindsight seems should have been a much earlier thought.

When all else fails, there’s Jadhav. Or Kedar. Or whatever it is they call him. But he’s there. Even the batsmen that face him are not sure he’s there. Or for that matter, aware that he’s bowling. It seems like a swoopy dream that creeps up and goes on, over after over. And if for some reason, the batsmen feel he is uncalled for and should be dispatched – or they should be dispatched from the chains of the Kedar Jadhav dreamscape, they are dismissed.

Batsmen have the same zapped expression as Marcus Stoinis did when he was dismissed to Jadhav off a long-hop. Though in Jadhav’s case, it ideally should be called a short-hop. To try and pull Jadhav to the high heavens but fail to go beyond short midwicket is one of the mysteries of life.

But then isn’t Jadhav just that? An unknown. Just when the world thought they were coming to grips with the anomalies of Jasprit Bumrah’s action, they were faced with Kedar Jadhav’s inaction.

If he were any more languid, the pitch would be a sleeper car.  And so, Stoinis perished. As 25 before him. Perplexed. “What did I just do? What did he just do to make me do what I just did to me?” It’s quite inexplicable. For most of his spell, he’s mildly thudding it wide outside off, into a waiting Dhoni’s gloves or pads or shoes or whatever those Netherland deliveries deem to go to.

That Stoinis fell in Jadhav’s fourth over to give him his first wicket was a surprise. Jadhav is a partnership breaker. By now, it appears the batsman has fallen even before he’s bowled his first delivery.

First time Jadhav bowled in an ODI was under Dhoni’s captaincy - he had consecutive wickets in his second over. Yes, he was on a hat-trick. Whether it was an optical illusion that in the high hills of Dharamsala, someone could sling so low, accounted for Neesham’s dismissal who can say.

Neesham had been caught and bowled by Jadhav. In an instant, from 4780 feet, he had dropped to sea level. Till this day, Neesham hasn’t quite overcome the fact that he fell to Jadhav. In his drafts lies a tweet of the horror. Damned if you tweet, damned if you delete.

In the second match of that series, New Zealand was 115/1 off 20 overs. Who do you call? Partnership busters Jadhav & Co at your service. Third ball off his first over, Messrs TWM Latham were evicted.

Third match: 13th over, Jadhav has his prize, Williamson. In his second over. Later in the 30th over, Jadhav returns for his third over. And has his second prize, Anderson. And Latham again, in his fourth over. He then hands over to Bumrah and the regulars.

For Jadhav is irregular if anything. To describe his bowling is akin to describing a joke. Just, more often than not, the joke is on the batsman. Who are left mortified, did that just happen, much like after Stoinis claimed a bump catch. Uncanny, but Jadhav too claimed a bump catch. Nobody remembers his reaction. Doubt there was one.

Jadhav’s moment in the bowling sun though was when he ran through Pakistan’s middle order, 3/23 off 9 overs, thank you. Not surprising, he had the Pak skipper, Sarfraz Ahmed, in only his second over.

…..

Jadhav has not been dismissed in five of his last seven innings –  81*, 22*, 61*, 23* and 16*. On three occasions, Dhoni was unbeaten at the other end - 59*, 48* and 87*. Jadhav-Dhoni partnerships were 141*, 53* and 121*.

It doesn’t take a Trevor Chappell to tell you that Dhoni has unearthed something special in Jadhav. That’s something Jadhav will tell you all the time. Whether it is Dhoni keeping to Jadhav’s bowling or Dhoni-Jadhav talking their socks off through those long, meandering partnerships - by Jadhav’s own admission, Dhoni restrains him initially. No wonder the two love their long drives together, where Dhoni helms the wheel.

***

But what is it about Jadhav that gives the impression that he is not just a part-time bowler but a part-time batsman too? Sunil Gavaskar when exalting the likes of Virat and Rohit, went as far as to nail comparative perceptions that Jadhav was an ugly batsman.

Such is the visual impact of certain batsmen that their relatively low-key peers go largely unnoticed. It’s not too different for someone like Ambati Rayudu or Cheteshwar Pujara.

So if asked, what is your favourite Jadhav shot, you may be at a loss for an answer. In his comparative, Gavaskar praised batsmen such as Jadhav. That they hang in there and get the job done. That they are almost from the Dhoni school of thought – that there is no harm to bat ugly and win ugly as long as you win.

When you’re 95/3, with both Virat and Rohit out, it’s over to Rayudu, Jadhav and Dhoni. It may not be the most soul stirring displays of batsmanship, but scrap they will.

Nothing of Jadhav’s ODI batting numbers indicate a scrap however; a strike rate in excess of 100, a batting average of 47, and you’re tempted to say, hello flam!

 If Frodo Baggins were to ever wield a bat, he may not be too dissimilar to Kedar Jadhav. It may not quite be the Return of King Kohli, but he will traverse the dark lands of the middle overs and fight with trolls at the death.

Six of Jadhav’s first seven ODIs were against Zimbabwe in Harare. His first ton came against them. Hold it against him if you want. His second ton was against England. In his hometown, Pune. Hold it against him if you want. Both these were batting at 6, a position he’s come in at in 20 of his 36 innings. Add to that 13 times at No. 5 and 7, and you grasp what kind of crisis man Jadhav is.

Jadhav’s slogan could very well be – everywhere I go, it’s a disaster.

If everything was just fine, there would be no need for Jadhav. Some days, the top three see it through. But more often than not, they won’t. And the middle order will be called to clean up.

Kedar Jadhav is housekeeping. Behind the scenes. Low on glam. But there are days, when even the spotlight falls on him. Just as it did on a maid in Manhattan. That was JLo.

What will Kedar Jadhav become or not, who knows – till then, stay with those timely inside out cover drives and pulls in front of square. Sometimes, a cricketer is just about his cricket. And there’s no nickname needed.

First published here

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Is it too early to write about Krunal Pandya?

by Naked Cricket


Or to write him off?

To know Krunal better, perhaps we could attempt to know India’s Twenty20 cricket better – Krunal made his T20 international debut a few months back, in November 2018. He’s played nine games so far.

Dinesh Karthik, now considered to be India’s T20 finisher has played 30 games. Over 12 years back, he played in India’s first T20 game. That was then the 10th T20 international being played.

The third T20 of the New Zealand series on February 10, 2019 was the 738th game.

Rohit Sharma, the top T20 run getter, has played 93 games. Rohit did not play in India’s first T20 game. Tendulkar, Sehwag and Raina did. That’s how long ago it was.

Dhoni was the captain then. He would go on to lead India to victory in the first ICC World Twenty20 in 2007. Neither Tendulkar, Sehwag nor Raina featured in that final.

The evolution of a T20 team calls for brutal selections.

From that glorious Indian team of 2007, only Dhoni and Rohit remain.

It’s only in the last few years that India has balanced its significant ODI diet with more T20s. In doing this, it has grappled with acknowledging how ODI and T20 cricket are vastly different –  and require different skills and possibly different selections. While the transformation to picking lean IPL squads has been far swifter, India’s T20 unit has taken long to shed its excess ODI weight.

Where patience and building an innings are a virtue in ODIs, they are a luxury few can ill afford in T20s.

Where in the longer formats, bits and pieces players are exposed, a few overs of glory, make headlines and careers out of players.

It is still early days in Krunal Pandya’s international career. Yet it’s likely, he will continue to be a T20 selection – as much for his own skills, as for the lack of overall T20 skills of other candidates.

So, who are these other candidates?

Ravindra Jadeja – last played a T20 for India in 2017. In his 40 games, he batted only 18 times. Mostly at 7 and 8, with a strike rate less than 100, an average less than 10. The sample size is small and it’s possibly Jadeja’s lack of impact as a bowler as much as Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal’s ascent, that saw him lose out.

Jadeja’s economy is just a shade over 7, but it’s his 31 wickets off 40 games at a much higher strike rate that go against him – 26 to Kuldeep’s 11 and Chahal’s 15.

Kuldeep Yadav already has 35 wickets from 18 games at an economy of 6.72. Chahal has 45 wickets from 29 (economy 7.9) – while neither Yadav nor Chahal have any batting skills of note, it’s as much the attacking bowling option as their ODI rise that has nudged out both Jadeja and Ashwin.

R Ashwin’s 52 wickets from 46 games (economy 6.97) meant he too last played in 2017. Incidentally, both Ashwin and Jadeja last turned up in a T20I on July 9, 2017 – both ended wicketless, one went for 39 off his 4, the other 41 off 3.3 overs.

West Indies chased down 190 with nine wickets and two Indian spinners in hand.

There has been the brief flirtation with Axar Patel, but he mostly played against Zimbabwe when the mainstay was rested. 11 games, 9 wickets; batting mostly at 7 and 8, his numbers saw him last turn up for India close to a year ago.

Once upon a time, there was the Yusuf Pathan option – he too batted lower down, mostly at 6, 7 and 8 and was at best a part-time bowling option – bowling his full quota in seven of the 17 innings he turned his arm over. Yusuf opened the innings with Gambhir in that first World T20 Final. That was also his first T20I match.

The last time he turned up, the rain impacted both the match and his career. He did not bat, India lost to Duckworth Lewis in 7.1 overs, close to seven years ago.

Which brings us to Krunal Pandya. Elder brother of chat-show Pandya.

And significantly, part of a champion IPL team, the Mumbai Indians. (with so many coaches going, he can only hone his all-round skills)

Krunal turns 28 next month. He’s played just three First Class games so far. However, he’s heaved it in 71 T20s. He made his T20 debut six years back.

In the Hamilton decider, Krunal’s bowling was mauled for 53 runs. It seemed to be predictable hit-me bowling – but then, whenever any bowling is slaughtered, you don’t ask if it halal or jhatka. Either way, it’s slaughtered. And appears clueless, bereft of thought, variations, guile.

Krunal has a bowling economy of 8.72 rpo (almost identical to Yusuf’s). It’s a small sample size, but on evidence, his bowling (not unlike Jadeja’s in T20s and ODIs) does lack imagination – there is a sameness in speed, trajectories, lengths. Once a batsman has his measure, expect an all-out attack.

Which is where the wicket-gifts can happen. Just the other day, his 3/28 gifted him the Man of the match.

Such is the nature of the format that Krunal will have the occasional good days with the ball. To expect him to be the 5th bowler though is a bridge too far. It’s better if he starts as the sixth bowler and splits those four overs with another part-timer.

India was 145/6 after 15.2 overs when Dhoni fell. Kartik and Krunal, the last of the hitting ammunition dump. Krunal added 26(13).

Had India played a bowler instead of Krunal, India’s chase would’ve stopped after Dhoni’s wicket. Question is, would India’s target have been far less?

While Krunal has batted in only four innings for India (strike rate 156.81), it’s his batting numbers in domestic cricket that have pushed him to where he is – here too, his batting average of 27 and strike rate of 147 is uncannily similar to that of Yusuf Pathan’s. There are eight years between the two, but both play for Baroda.

Both are brothers of more illustrious fast bowling all-rounders; both pegged to be the next Kapil Dev.

***

Numbers aside, it’s Krunal Pandya’s obvious hitting ability. It appears to run in the Pandya blood. As too the cricketing smarts.

Only last year in Australia, after being walloped for 55 in Brisbane, he plugged it to just 26 two days later in Melbourne, and helped India square the series with a Man of the match haul in Sydney.  

For now, it might be best not to underestimate Krunal. If there’s a single to be taken, take it. The tail starts after him, not with him.

Then again, this could be a duel best viewed in a KKR vs MI match.

You can bet it will be hyped no end. Expect Krunal to add little to the hype though. He’s not much for a chat.

First published here

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