Jadhav, Suryakumar or Pandey: Who is India's answer to the number 6 slot?
- With Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul nailing down their spots at numbers 4 and 5 respectively, the number 6 position still remains up for grabs.
- The absence of MS DHoni and Hardik Pandya has made the number six slot even more crucial for India.
India’s recent ODI series whitewash at the hands of New Zealand reminded every passionate Indian fan about the heartbreak of the 2019 World Cup semifinal where the middle-order failed to deliver. MS Dhoni has not featured for India ever since and all-rounder Hardik Pandya has been recovering from back surgery.
Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul have nailed down the number 4 and 5 spots respectively, but the number 6 position still remains up for grabs
Hence, this brings up one of the most asked questions in Indian cricket, who is India's ideal number six?
Kedar Jadhav first burst on to the scene during India’s tour of Zimbabwe in 2015 where he scored a match-winning hundred. With then skipper MS Dhoni deciding to bat up the order, it was important for India to find a finisher at number six. Jadhav could not quite impress in his first few games at number six but his breakthrough innings came in Virat Kohli’s first game as India’s ODI captain.
Also see – RCB squad
India needed to chase down a target in excess of 350 to win the game in Pune and had lost four quick wickets for just 82 runs. However, Jadhav showed great temperament and built a solid partnership with skipper Kohli, scoring 120 in a game that India won convincingly. That cemented his place in the Indian team, thus displacing the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina.
Jadhav then had a poor 2018 in which he was able to score only 87 runs in 11 innings, but he always played that one innings that saved his place in the team. After having a poor World Cup and being dropped for the semi final against New Zealand, Jadhav inexplicably found a place in India’s ODI squad against West Indies.
Many felt that India’s ODI series to New Zealand would be Kedar Jadhav’s last chance of redeeming himself. He scored 26 off 16 in the first ODI but only managed to score 9 off 26 balls in the second ODI due to which he was dropped from the team and was replaced by Manish Pandey. The writing might be on the wall as far as Jadhav’s ODI career is concerned.
Suryakumar Yadav was one of those street-smart players for the Kolkata Knight riders and always used to play the handy cameos towards the end of their innings. However, he got his big break when Mumbai Indians picked him up in the 2018 IPL auction. He was a middle-order batsman but was promoted to open and he had a great IPL 2018, scoring 512 runs in 14 games at a strike rate of 133.33. With Rohit Sharma deciding to open the batting in 2019 IPL, Yadav was given the number three spot where he was again impressive, scoring 424 runs in 16 games.
With India’s middle-order being brittle, Yadav knew that a solid domestic season would do wonders for his chances of a national call-up. Yadav scored 226 runs in 4 innings of the Vijay Hazare Trophy at an unbelievable average of 113 and an amazing strike-rate of 154.79. In the Deodhar Trophy, he scored a 29-ball 72* which showcased his ability as a finisher at number six. The ODI squad for the series against SA is yet to be announced, and considering Yadav did well for India A in New Zealand, he will be hopeful of getting a call-up. Another good IPL season might also see him in contention for a berth in India’s T20 World Cup squad.
Manish Pandey has promised a lot but never quite delivered. After being an important player for Karnataka at the domestic level, Manish Pandey found his place in the Indian ODI side and scored a match-winning hundred against Australia in Sydney to help India chase down a target in excess of 330.
However, consistency has always been an issue with Manish Pandey and a number of low scores saw him getting dropped from the playing eleven and also saw him missing out on the plane for the 2019 World Cup. However, he had a fantastic 2019-20 season and has finally shown the consistency that was required out of him.
Pandey scored 525 runs in 9 innings in the Vijay Hazare Trophy at an insane average of 105. He was rewarded for this performance by being given a chance to play at No. 6 in the T20 series versus West Indies and Sri Lanka, where he did well. In the ODI series too, he scored a decent 42 in the third ODI, thus repaying the faith shown in him.
Now that KL has slotted into the middle order as a wicketkeeper, India don't seem likely to play Rishabh Pant.
The three players mentioned above will be eyeing for a spot at number six in India’s limited-overs squad versus South Africa. It will be interesting to see who gets the nod with the T20 World Cup fast approaching.
Published 16 Mar 2020, 14:33 IST