Jadhav, Pandya come to fore

With Dhoni and Yuvraj holding their own, future looks bright for Kohli's side

Jadhav, Pandya come to fore
Although it’s still a long way off, the three-match one-day international series against England was India's final pit stop before the Champions Trophy and skipper Virat Kohli should be pleased with the way most things panned out. While most of the squad picks itself for the ICC event in England in June and the remaining pieces are expected to be fixed based on performances in the Indian Premier League in April-May, this series was an opportunity for the fresh faces to make a strong case for themselves and Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya did just that.

Jadhav, although 31, was playing just in his fifth ODI series and after enduring a disappointing New Zealand outing that put enormous pressure on him, the diminutive Pune cricketer passed the England Test in flying colours. In the opening ODI at his home turf, he smashed a breathtaking 76-ball 120 to power India to a sensational victory in the company of skipper Kohli (122).

After getting only a short stay in the second game, he then proved that the Pune blitzkrieg was no  flash in the pan with another counter-attack in the third one-dayer at Kolkata. Jadhav, playing some outrageous shots, almost won the game for India with a valiant 75-ball 90. He deservedly won the man of the series award as India looked to have solved the finisher’s puzzle for now.

Pandya, strong contender to seal the seaming all-rounder’s slot, also had a point to prove and he too came good, performing well with both the ball and bat. In the first and third ODIs, he opened the bowling and having added extra yards of pace, he came across as a genuine third seamer. Pandya surprised all with the bat as well, arriving to the crease with the team under pressure in Pune and Kolkata but delivering in fine style. At the MCA Stadium he hit an unbeaten 40 and at the Eden Gardens he cracked a career-best 56 to give himself plenty of confidence. If only he can add some weapons to his bowling, he could emerge as the balancing force the team has been on the look out for a long time.

Jadhav and Pandya apart, another heartening thing to emerge from the series is the way veterans Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni bounced back. Yuvraj, recalled to the ODI fold after three years amidst mixed reactions, showed that he’s ready for one final hurrah. He hammered a career best 150 in the second one-dayer and in the final game, despite taking a painful blow to the ribs, he soldiered on strongly to show that he’s hungry as ever to don the national colours.

There was plenty of spotlight on Dhoni prior to the series. Having endured a poor 2016 as well as relinquishing limited-overs captaincy duties, the Jharkhandi would have to wanted to silence the critics and he did just that, slamming a ton and playing a mentor's role to Kohli and the youngsters in the team to perfection.

In a series completely dominated by batsmen — 2090 runs were scored in six innings — thanks to the absolute belters doled out in the first two games and dew to contend, it’s not completely fair to judge the bowlers. Given the odds they were stacked against, they actually held their end pretty decently.

It wasn't a series without concerns for India though as the openers totally misfired. K L Rahul, coming on the back of a good Test series, had a top-score of 11. He would be extremely disappointed with his showing and would now want to return to run-making ways in the T20I series starting on the Republic’s Day. Shikhar Dhawan though will now have to wait for his turn after squandering the two chances that came his way. Ajinkya Rahane, given a chance in the final game, didn’t grab it either. Kohli, meanwhile, once again led from the front, relishing the added responsibilities.

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