Matches (16)
USA vs BAN (1)
WI vs SA (2)
County DIV1 (5)
County DIV2 (4)
ENG v PAK (1)
IPL (1)
ENG v PAK (W) (1)
CE Cup (1)

Can Kedar Jadhav 'light the fuse' to ignite CSK's middle order?

And would he benefit from having a more defined role in the Super Kings line-up?

Nagraj Gollapudi
Can Kedar Jadhav step on the gas and become a middle-order force for the Super Kings?

Can Kedar Jadhav step on the gas and become a middle-order force for the Super Kings?  •  BCCI

Among several questions currently riddling the Chennai Super Kings, a significant one concerns Kedar Jadhav. What exactly is he contributing to the team? The plain and popular answer would be: nothing really.
Nothing really, since those goosebumps-inducing moments in the IPL opener in 2018 against the Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium, when Jadhav limped back on one leg, having hurt his left hamstring earlier in the innings, to hit a six and a four off the last two balls to hand his new franchise a stunning win.
It was for such acts of courage and unusual talent that the Super Kings, usually conservative at IPL auctions, paid INR 7.8 crore (USD 1.2 million approx) in 2018 to sign Jadhav, making him the most expensive auction buy for the franchise.
Jadhav was the Super Kings' third-most-expensive player behind captain MS Dhoni and vice-captain Suresh Raina. But he hasn't set the franchise alight. In 21 matches for the Super Kings, Jadhav has faced 250 balls and scored 244 runs at a strike rate of 97.60.
Jadhav is a notoriously slow starter: his first-10-balls strike rate in the IPL for the Super Kings is just 93.5, and he hits a boundary every 7.3 deliveries. Of all his runs for the franchise, 130 - from 139 balls - have come in this stage of his innings.
On Wednesday, Jadhav walked in in the finisher role with the Super Kings needing 39 from 21 balls. The Super Kings sent Jadhav in ahead of Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo because - their head coach Stephen Fleming later said - they felt he could dominate Sunil Narine.
The Super Kings ended up losing by 10 runs. Jadhav finished with 7 off 12 balls, having failed to score off eight of them.
In his first outing of this IPL season, against the Rajasthan Royals, Jadhav batted at No. 6, behind Sam Curran and his Maharashtra team-mate Ruturaj Gaikwad, who was making his IPL debut. Curran smashed two sixes in five balls, before both he and Gaikwad were stumped off successive balls against Rahul Tewatia.
When Jadhav joined Faf du Plessis, also fresh at the crease, the Super Kings needed a further 140 runs from the final 11 overs with six wickets in hand.
Jadhav's innings was lit up by three successive fours off the legspinner Shreyas Gopal's first three deliveries, but was cut short soon after by top-edged swish against a slower ball from Tom Curran. Jadhav would have been disappointed after scoring 22 runs off 16 balls on the small ground in Sharjah where Super Kings lost by 16 runs.
In the next match against the Delhi Capitals, Jadhav walked in at No. 5 in another chase, with Super Kings needing 132 from 65 balls. Despite being at the wicket for six-and-a-half overs, however, Jadhav only managed 26 from 21 balls, with three fours.
These examples only highlight Jadhav's inability to accelerate, impose himself on the bowlers, build quick partnerships, and take charge of a chase. With the pre-season exit of Suresh Raina, there has been extra pressure on Jadhav and Ambati Rayudu to deliver as the two most experienced Indian middle-order batsmen in the squad behind MS Dhoni. Jadhav hasn't delivered, and his struggles have become a story.
What is Jadhav's role?
Before the 2019 season, Fleming put his arm around Jadhav, suggesting he would ease the burden on Dhoni by playing the No. 4 role. In 2018 Dhoni had his best IPL with the bat, batting mostly at No. 4 in the absence of Jadhav who was ruled out with the hamstring injury he picked up in the season-opener in Mumbai.
This season, Jadhav has batted just once at No. 4 - in the chase against Sunrisers Hyderabad. The Super Kings needed 129 runs from 14 overs when he came in. He was caught in the covers having made 3 off 10.
In his press conference after the defeat, Fleming was asked about the thought process behind sending Kedar Jadhav ahead of Dhoni. Fleming raised an eyebrow, probably at being asked about Dhoni's batting position. Fleming checked whether that was the question. When it was repeated, he said: "Really? It's a question?"
According to Fleming, Jadhav is the Super Kings' No. 4 with Dhoni being the "middle to back-end" player. "Kedar Jadhav is our No. 4. He plays dual roles, where [if] we get off to a good start he might move down to let Dhoni up. But when you are losing early wickets then your No. 4 batsman goes up."
Fleming, though, has acknowledged that the pressure is on his top-4 including Jadhav. He conceded that form can be brittle in the early phase of the IPL, but at the same time he expected a "substantial contribution" from Jadhav, whom he believes can "light the fuse at any stage" in the IPL.
Would giving Jadhav a firm role at No. 4 regardless of the situation offer him a better chance to succeed? The likes of Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Nitish Rana, Rishabh Pant and Priyam Garg have been given specific roles in the middle order by their respective franchises, and it seems to have worked in their case.
With a lower order that remains weak and inconsistent despite the presence of Dhoni, the Super Kings need Jadhav to play a more dominant role. Ultimately the responsibility lies with him. He forced his way into India's ODI team with his unorthodox strokeplay, his street-smartness and the side-arm slow bowling with which he helped India win the Asia Cup final in 2018. In ODIs, Jadhav has played some spectacular support acts to Virat Kohli and sparkled on several occasions with Dhoni at the other end.
But Dhoni isn't the Dhoni of old now, and is perhaps better suited to playing the support role. There's a vacuum where the Super Kings need a dominant middle-order force. Jadhav needs to take charge and show he can be that player.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo