Kedar Jadhav has not featured for India in the World Cup since that debatable ‘lack of intent’ shown by him in the company of MS Dhoni against England, the only match that the men in blue have lost so far.
With the all-important semi-final against the perennial semi-finalists, the Kiwis, lurking, there is a good case for a place in the team for the spin-bowling all-rounder. This is for quite a few reasons.
First, the ground and the opponents. The Manchester ground usually assists spin, especially so in the second innings. The ground, unlike at Birmingham, is relatively large, and it won’t be easy to hit spinners for sixes at will. Moreover, unlike England team, who were looked at as the possible semi-final opponent for India until that fateful Aussie loss against South Africa, this New Zealand team, does not have many big hitters barring an out-of-form openers Martin Guptill & Colin Munro and James Neesham. So, it makes a lot of sense to have an extra spinning option in Jadhav.
Second, as we saw in India’s last match against Sri Lanka, even good bowlers like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Kuldeep Yadav can have an occasional off day. With Hardik Pandya trusted to bowl his quota of full ten overs, India does not have any sixth bowling option. The second seam-bowling all-rounder in the original 11, Vijay Shankar, is no longer part of the team. And with the spin twins of Chahal and Kuldeep around, Ravindra Jadeja stands little chance of getting into the 11. That leaves no sixth bowling option for Captain Kohli and he himself is the closest to someone who could roll his arms over!
Now, the question arises as to who he should replace in the team? It could be either Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik. Contrary to what many experts may think, it may actually make more sense to drop Pant. Against New Zealand, India does not need flamboyant players like Pant, rather steady players like Karthik, Jadhav and Dhoni. The trio could bat sensibly to give India enough runs to defend or bat well enough to chase. As it is, the top three of Indian batting will need to perform in any case, without which this middle order, regardless of the combination, could only do so much.
In a knockout match, it is always important to have that safety option to fall back on. Imagine if India did not have Vijay Shankar to fall back on when Bhuvneshwar Kumar got injured early on in the Pakistan match! India must have a sixth bowling option in the semi-final, and at the moment, there is only one player who could do that job and that's Kedar Jadhav.
Also see – Australia vs England head to head statsPublished 08 Jul 2019, 08:30 IST