Diminutive part-time off-spinner Kedar Jadhav bowled the most important spell of his short ODI career to play a vital role in defending champions India thrashing Bangladesh by a hugely comfortable margin of nine wickets and set-up a mouth-watering mega Champions Trophy final against Pakistan on Sunday.
Jadhav had taken only six wickets in 18 ODIs before Thursday’s semi-final in Birmingham. But his dismissal of in-form and top scorer Tamim Iqbal (70, 82 balls, 7x4s, 1x6) and second-highest scorer Mushfiqur Rahim (61, 85 balls, 4x4s) helped restrict Bangladesh to 264 for seven wickets in 50 overs – and effectively turned the game around.
Against a marauding batting line-up like that of India, this total was not going to test Virat Kohli’s team. And it happened. Rohit Sharma hammered his 11th ODI century (123 not out, 129 balls, 15x4s, 1x6) and Kohli missed his 28th ton by just four runs as he remained unbeaten on 96 (78 balls, 13x4s) as India easily overhauled Bangladesh’s total with almost 10 overs to spare (265 for one wicket in 40.1 overs).
But the game-changer was Jadhav, the pint-sized batsman from Pune. The 32-year-old occasional off-spinner was introduced by Kohli after consultation with wicket-keeper MS Dhoni and the move paid rich dividend. Kohli almost said he didn’t expect Jadhav to give him wickets.
“Wickets were honestly a bonus. Hardik went for a few in his first three, so we wanted to give him a bit of a break and cover up overs through Kedar, and with one left-handed batting, we knew that he had the ability to get in two, three, dot balls to the left-hander every over. But it ended up changing the whole game for us,” Kohli admitted after the match.
Kohli was man enough to not to run away with all the credit for the decision to introduce Jadhav. “Yeah, when moves like this pay off, I won't take the whole credit. Obviously, I asked MS [Dhoni], as well, and we both decided that Kedar is a good option at the moment, and he bowled really well. I mean, credit to him. He doesn't bowl much in the nets, but he's a smart cricketer. He knows where the batsmen you get trouble, and if you can think like a batter when you're bowling, it's obviously a bit of an advantage to any bowler, so I think that he executed today perfectly,” said Kohli.
Apart from Jadhav’s surprise spell, it was India’s rampaging batting line-up that ensured that the team would play its second successive Champions Trophy final on the trot. In 2013, India had won the trophy under Dhoni’s captaincy.
Both Indian openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have been in tremendous form in the tournament, and both crossed the 300-run mark on Thursday. Dhawan sits atop the run heap with 317 in four matches in this tournament while Rohit Sharma is close second with 304 from four matches as well.
Dhawan, actually, has now become India's highest run scorer in the Champions Trophy during his knock of 46 against Bangladesh. He went past Sourav Ganguly's mark of 665. If the 2013 Champions Trophy is also taken into account, Dhawan’s run aggregate becomes 680 from nine matches. He has so far hammered three centuries and three half-centuries.
Rohit, too, has been the main scorer in this eight-team competition. The right-hander’s deadly combination with left-handed Dhawan has been too hot to handle for the opposition bowlers.
Kohli has been quiet by his standards; but one reason is that he has not got a situation from where he would play his natural strokes. Still, he has scored 253 in four matches, which is quite creditable.
Brief scores: Bangladesh: 264/7 in 50 overs (Tamim Iqbal 70, Mushfiqur Rahim 61, Kedar Jadhav 2/22, Jasprit Bumrah 2/39) India: 265/1 in 40.1 overs (Rohit Sharma 129 not out, Virat Kohli 96 not out, Mashrafe Mortaza 1/29)
Result: India won by nine wickets.
Man of the match: Rohit Sharma