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Kedar Jadhav A versatile utility and a finisher

On days, Kedar Jadhav is everything any Captain would like to have in his team. The situation can be that the identified fifth bowler is being soundly thrashed by the opposition and there comes Jadhav to bowl and suddenly the batsman panic and loses his wicket. The Captain, looking for a balance in the team and go with only four genuine bowlers and he needs parttimer to bowl few overs. Jadhav enters the scene and not only bowls seven overs but also takes a wicket.

On occasions, the top three batsmen, all world class in numbers, fails and the team is struggling losing four early wickets. Enter Jadhav as an all-rounder, plays some innovative and aggressive pulls and drives and takes the team home easily.

Jadhav is opposition’s enigma. They target him being a part-time bowler expecting several h long hops and full tosses but end up playing the shot badly and lose their wicket. The case in point is Australia’s Marcus Stoinis, whose batting form has been excellent in Big Bash and in the Internationals. With that kind of form he not only outplaced Mitch Marsh but also got promoted to open the innings for the country. With huge runs behind he started cautiously in the first ODI and took Australia to a very good position after losing the opener early in the innings – you guessed it – It was Aaron Finch and it was Jasprit Bumrah and it was the third ball he faced and it was a moving outswinger caught behind for a duck.

Stoinis carefully saw off the new ball attack from two great bowlers Bumrah and Shami. He was carrying along nicely and in his 30s when Captain Kohli introduced Jadhav into the attack to get some overs of the part-timer. Jadhav, with his varieties, in action rather than deliveries pitched one short and Stoinins’s eyes went wide and pulled the ball powerfully straight to the hands of Kohli at mid-wicket. Stoinis expressed his frustration or stupidity bit that is how Jadhav gets his wicket. He ended up bowling seven overs for just 31 runs.

Jadhav’s bowling is a classic case study. Already a short person by height, occasionally he delivers side arm, a Malinga like action but gets very low to the ground and the ball nicely skids, not allowing the batsmen to go under the delivery. The reason he gets so low is because he bends his knees so much that it almost touches the ground. It was estimated that the delivery was bowled from a height of 4.3 feet. One commentator quipped saying his side arm deliveries are lowest delivered ball ever – second only to the underarm delivery from Trevor Chappell several decades ago. He confuses the batsmen by bowling the next delivery from the top of the arm.

As a batsman, Jadhav generates great power in his shots. He picks the right ball to pull or play over point or the inside out shot over extra cover. The fact that he, once again after the MCG performance, combined effectively with Dhoni in finishing the game with a massive partnership us a great boon for Team India just before the big stage, the World Cup! Kedar Jadhav has repaid the team’s faith in him with consistent performances in the middle order. He says the team management has clearly stated the need for him to bat at No. 6. "I've been batting at No. 6 for more than two years," he said later. "Since the series against England in India (January 2017), the team management has been looking at me as a finisher. They have clearly told me, 'You will be batting at No. 6 till the time you are there'.”

In the course of his innings Jadhav was playing shots against all bowlers - a short ball from Pat Cummins was helped over the wicketkeeper’s head, a full delivery from Nathan Coulter-Nile was effortlessly chipped over long-on, and Adam Zampa was driven inside-out into the cover boundary. It was a fine display of Jadhav's qualities as a finisher, as he and the Champion Dhoni hauled India to victory over Australia.

The team want Dhoni to bat at 5 (although Dhoni would like to bat at 4), a position where a steadying or an accelerating partnership is required for the team. Dhoni's elevation in the order requires a reliable No 6 and Jadhav's composure and his range of strokes appears to have solved the matter for the team ahead of the World Cup. Dhoni and Jadhav appear to bat well together: they saw India home in a similar low-scoring game in Melbourne earlier this year, and again they paced the run-chase to perfection. "Every time I see Mahi bhai, I feel very confident," Jadhav said. "I can't exactly put it in words. He has that sort of aura... you see him and feel 'I will deliver today’. He has that knack of getting the best out of every player."

Last year, at the same time, in the first game of the IPL and he tore his hamstring, retired hurt and then came back to hit the winning run and underwent surgery missing the rest of the tournament and the England tour. He again broke down in Asia Cup. At 33, he is not in his prime fitness but Jadhav is happy the team has kept faith with him. He played the whole of the New Zealand series hopefully strengthened his hamstring in the process. "In this team, everybody is encouraging towards me irrespective of how many times I have got injured," the all-rounder said. "Every time I have regained fitness, I have walked into the team. That wasthe confidence the management had in me and obviously, the kind of confidence they have given has helped me deliver consistently. Credit goes to the captain and management for backing me. Now is the time I pay them back for the confidence and faith they have shown in my difficult times."

Jadhav's bowling gives India an extra spin option when they play only 4 genuine bowlers. "I've never thought of bowling 10 overs in a game as of now," Jadhav said. "If the situation demands it and the teams requires it, I can definitely do it. But doing so consistently will take mental and physical adjustment. I need to get fitter if I have to bowl 10 overs every game. I enjoy the chance to bowl, but I don’t think I’m a bowler. I do my job, I know my limitations." Kedar Jadhav can be the critical person to provide the balance for the team in the World cup.

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