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Can Jadhav go from useful to indispensable?

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The importance of Kedar Jadhav (0:59)

Virat Kohli and Ajit Agarkar on Kedar Jadhav's bowling exploits for India (0:59)

Before he was first given the ball by India, Kedar Jadhav had bowled 110.5 overs in 242 matches across his first-class, List A and T20 career. That's less than three balls per match. And in nine years playing for Maharashtra and West Zone, he had taken a grand total of nine wickets. It is unlikely that a batsman facing him would know these numbers, of course. All he would see is a small man ambling up to the crease and very nearly underarming the ball through.

So imagine being David Warner. Only moments ago, he had become the first Australian and eighth batsman overall to score a century in his 100th ODI, walloping a pair of frontline quicks and one clever legspinner to all parts of the ground. Now with Australia 222 for 0, in front of him stood a walking, talking white flag.

Only Jadhav isn't really as innocuous as he seems. He understands he has a very limited set of skills as a bowler - he even admits as much - but to make sure he isn't a complete pushover, he has borrowed from Lasith Malinga his slingy action. For a peddler of very slow offspin, the simple consequence of that is he rarely ever gets the kind of bounce the batsman might otherwise expect. Warner fell because of that miscalculation. He saw a shortish delivery and thought it was ripe to pull. But when it simply skidded off the pitch, he had to change his shot, and as a result, he lost some of his power. End result: caught at long-on.

That was part of a five-over spell of play in which India took three wickets for the cost of only 17 runs. Travis Head and Peter Handscomb did quite well to recover and push Australia past 330 - but to do that they had to negotiate a track that was showing clear signs of slowing down and a bowling attack that is good at exploiting such conditions. Australia could only score 28 runs in the five overs between the 40th and the 45th.

Jadhav has succeeded in this stop-gap role a fair few times now. In October 2016, he was brought on as first change and dismissed Kane Williamson in his second over. Bonus wicket taken, India immediately whisked him out of the attack. But with Tom Latham past fifty and Corey Anderson new to the crease, India brought him back, he got rid of both batsmen and then signed off for the night. Five overs, three wickets, job done.

If that was merely a spinner exploiting subcontinent conditions, Jadhav was trusted to do a holding job in England at an ICC tournament. He took two wickets in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy, the first of which sent the red-hot Tamim Iqbal back for 70 and broke a third-wicket stand of 123. He would topple Mushfiqur Rahim for 61 as well, and force the lower middle order into rebuild mode when only 15 overs were left in the innings.

So how and why is he proving such a menace? Well, in addition to his knack for making balls keep low, he asks the batsman to make all the pace themselves. When James Neesham tried to do it, he spooned a catch back to Jadhav. That was wicket number one in international cricket.

From round the wicket, Jadhav's low arm creates an exaggerated angle into the left-hander, often cramping the batsman for room. From over the wicket, his deliveries nearly always follow a stump-to-stump trajectory, so hitting across the line is fraught with risk. But since he insists on being so very slow through the air, it's hard to avoid hitting him across the line. While sweeps, pulls and cuts are really good ways to put power on the ball, there's always the danger of being lbw if the batsman misses, as Williamson found out when he went for a sweep and found himself too early into his shot.

When Warner went for the pull, he miscued it. And when Mitchell Santner tried to cut, expecting the ball to turn, it hoodwinked him by going straight on and he was caught behind.

India's bowling attack in ODIs has become rather well rounded, with the quality of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar at the top and in the death, and the wicket-taking wristspinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal to control the middle. But when nothing works, they look to Jadhav for something different. They have never, so far, given him his full 10 overs, perhaps hoping to preserve his novelty.

"When a guy bowls decent areas being a part-timer, he's got nothing to lose," Virat Kohli said. "If a proper set batsman tries to go after them, more often than not, you get your breakthroughs. The regular bowlers are obviously always looking for consistency, and thinking from a bowler's point of view. That's why the mindset, I won't say reluctant, but get more calculated compared to a part-timer who just comes and bowls. If it turns, good, and he's giving six runs an over, he's done his job. I think that can be stretched and it is good for the captain. I think Kedar thrives on that."

So what of Jadhav's stronger suit? He is middle-order batsman, in a line-up where he rarely gets to bat when the going is good, but has to do overtime otherwise.

By growing up playing tennis-ball cricket in tightly confined areas, he has developed a game that helps him access weird areas of the field. In the Caribbean, he got down on one knee well before Miguel Cummins had got into his delivery stride. The fast bowler countered by bowling wide outside off stump, but Jadhav was still able to scoop him away to the fence.

Trick shots such as those, in addition to his pedigree as a proper batsman and knack for breaking dangerous partnerships, mark Jadhav as a worthwhile investment. But he'll have to find a way to win more matches off his own bat.

He was a revelation against England in Pune last year. He could have stolen another game in Kolkata but fell agonisingly short.

He looked the part again in Bengaluru, scoring 67 runs and calmly talking the chase deep, but fumbled in the face of a slower ball that he really never saw coming. Australia were concentrating on hitting the blockhole. Jadhav was prepared for that, taking guard deep in his crease. But those carefully laid plans were all undone when Kane Richardson planted a legcutter outside off stump. It was a beautiful passage of play.

Jadhav has earned goodwill within the team - even if he gets the odd glare or two because of his fielding and running - but he'll know that with the 2017-18 domestic season about to start, hundreds of hungry up-and-comers and even a few familiar faces - Suresh Raina, for example - will be targeting a spot in the Indian XI. It's time he made his secure.