Asia Cup | Takeaways: The Kedar Jadhav solution and Indian openers’ effective batting display

Asia Cup | Takeaways: The Kedar Jadhav solution and Indian openers’ effective batting display

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India was convincing against Pakistan today and thrashed their arch-rivals by 8 wickets to top the group stage. However, the major highlight of the day was Kedar Jadhav, who spun a web around Pakistan line-up to give a solid solution to India’s quest for the No. 6 position as a batsman and a bowler.

Kedar as No. 6 - both as a batsman and a bowler

There is something about Kedar Jadhav that makes him stand apart. Since the match when MS Dhoni sprung the cat out of the bag in Dharamsala in 2016 by handing the ball to the Maharashtra part-time wicket-keeper, Jadhav has been a revelation. The mixture of his slingy and the top-arm action results in confusion in the batsmen’s head and his 5.10 economy rate suggests that he doesn’t concede a lot of runs in the process. While that is his most important job as a bowler, he also is gaining the reputation of a partnership breaker as some of his wickets include the likes of Kane Williamson, Steven Smith, David Warner, Tamim Iqbal, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, and Mushfiqur Rahim

At the heart of his best ODI figures, today was the way he varied his pace. Thanks to his inconsistent release point, the all-rounder didn’t allow the batsmen the width and the knowledge of his pace. The fact that he was changing it in almost all deliveries made the batsman's life more difficult. After Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah strangulated the Pakistani top-order, Pakistan thought he was the man to go after, and the carelessness resulted in three of them being dismissed by him. 

For the longest time, India has considered Hardik Pandya as the fifth bowling option and while no one can deny the fact that his bowling has improved, he has never been the ideal bowler to be banked upon. That brings the necessity of a sixth bowling option and in that account, Kedar Jadhav is an important cog in India’s World Cup wheel. He gives that six over in the middle order and is a decent batsman to be trusted at No.6. What about a flight ticket to England then? 

Why is Amir still persisted with?

Hasan Ali has been brilliant lately, but Mohammed Amir is still being considered as Pakistan’s spearhead since his return to international cricket in early 2016. He has picked up only one wicket in 2018 despite playing Zimbabwe in most of the matches. Since his return in 2016, Amir averages 35 runs per wicket in ODIs and has never taken more than three wickets in a game. For any other player with his level of recent performances, it would be an unremarkable decision to play him consistently.

This Asia Cup gave him an opportunity to keep his place in the side, but with league stage already done and dusted, he has failed to do anything as such. With the new ball against Hong Kong, Amir was flat, and there was no intensity whatsoever. In the first three overs, today, he didn’t concede a lot of runs but didn't nearly have the penetration. So, what can be the solution for this issue?

Certainly bringing Imad Wasim to support Shadab Khan is not an option at the moment after the spinner failed the yo-yo test and Mohammed Nawaz is not someone to be trusted with. So that brings the like-to-like replacement to the picture. Shaheen Afridi and Junaid Khan are good options, but Junaid doesn’t have the explosive match-changing ability that Amir possesses. Same goes for Afridi as well. But, the fact that Amir is well too inconsistent, it is not ideal for Pakistan to keep on giving chances. They have to take a punt and wait to see the result.  

Indian openers effective with the bat, but what was Pakistan doing

It is an established fact that Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are contrasting players against pace as Rohit always prefers the off-side, where he averages 81.79 compared to 40.58 through the onside. However, Dhawan is a much better player on the leg-side, averaging a stunning 120.76 as compared to his 44.75 through off. The matter of the fact that they don’t struggle on either side completely and go on scoring, which makes the job of the opposition skipper a bit difficult. I still don’t figure out what was Sarfraz Ahmed thinking before introducing Shadab Khan today, especially because both the openers are pretty good against right-arm pacers and struggle against leggie. 

Consider Rohit Sharma for example. Rohit had already scored his fifty when Shadab was introduced into the attack. And his dismissal shouldn't be a surprise as the Pakistan leg-spinner loved to target the stumps in this form of the game and became successful. It was way too late though as Hasan Ali was taken to cleaners by the duo by then and India ended up scoring 66 runs in 11 overs, putting the ideal base for the run-chase. Also, Pakistan pacers were the guilty of being too aggressive today. The weapon to success at this venue was the way to bowl slower, but Pakistan seamers - read Usman Khan and Amir - kept on bowling faster deliveries and there was hardly any variations on offer. It was a bookable offense against Dhawan and Rohit - arguably the most prolific openers in world cricket at the moment.

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