Yashasvi Jaiswal wrestles back opening spot from Virat Kohli, gives Rohit, Agarkar 'happy headache' for T20 World Cup | Crickit
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Yashasvi Jaiswal wrestles back opening spot from Virat Kohli, gives Rohit, Agarkar 'happy headache' for T20 World Cup

Apr 23, 2024 11:39 AM IST

Virat Kohli has done nothing wrong, scoring heavy, handsome and rapid runs but Jaiswal brings a natural element that Kohli doesn’t – his left-handedness.

Captains, coaches and, occasionally, selection panel heads sometimes speak of a ‘happy headache’. Happy or not, a headache is still a headache, right?

Rajasthan Royals' Yashasvi Jaiswal celebrates after scoring a century vs Mumbai Indians in IPL 2024(AFP)
Rajasthan Royals' Yashasvi Jaiswal celebrates after scoring a century vs Mumbai Indians in IPL 2024(AFP)

‘Happy headache’ in cricketing parlance translates to being put in a position when one is left wondering who to leave out rather than who to pick. It signifies the presence of multiple options for every position, a far better space to be in than scrambling to figure out whom to select from a sea of ordinariness. India’s think-tank finds itself burdened precisely with that currently – a ‘happy headache’.

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Yashasvi Jaiswal added to its pleasurable discomfiture on Monday evening with what could well be a breakout innings in IPL 2024. Before Rajasthan Royals’ clash against five-time champions Mumbai Indians, the left-handed opener had made a meagre 121 runs in seven innings; his class, quality, hunger and pedigree weren’t in question, but where were the runs?

Temporarily in cold storage, it would appear. Having lumbered through the first half of the league stage, the 22-year-old dispelled the gloom with a memorable second IPL century, an innings that ought to guarantee a ticket punched to the T20 World Cup starting in a little over five weeks.

It’s not as if Jaiswal’s place in the squad of 15 was under any great threat before this unbeaten 104. But with the runs refusing to come and a plethora of others in the top three staking their claims, he wouldn’t have been human if he didn’t feel any pressure, even if just self-imposed. Jaiswal was out of runs, but it was hard to see if he was out of form. In a few digs, he didn’t spend enough time at the crease; in others when he seemed to have done all the hard work, he threw his hand away. Maybe he was feeling the weight of expectations because he was coming off a 700-run Test series against England, or maybe he felt he had to weigh in with Jos Buttler’s runs too, however daft that might sound. After all, it’s worth remembering that beyond his two centuries, the England white-ball captain hadn’t had a great IPL.

On Monday, a drastic change in mindset was all too evident. Jaiswal wasn’t a young man in a tearing hurry, he didn’t go looking to impose himself on the bowling, he didn’t attempt outrageous, outlandish strokes from the off. Maybe the presence of a certain Jasprit Bumrah in the opposition ranks automatically precluded that, which might have been to Jaiswal’s advantage. But when he creamed the ace quick through the covers in the Powerplay with a minimum of effort, leaning into the ball, his front foot going to the pitch, you sensed that a turnaround was imminent.

From then on, Jaiswal batted like he had in January and February and a bit of March against England, in command, in total control. He worked his way through the gears, his consummate six-hitting skills complementing his authority square on the off-side. A century was inevitable, and when he brought up the winning runs, his skipper Sanju Samson enveloped him in a bear hug and the opposition appreciatively trooped towards him to offer congratulations.

Jaiswal, though, seemed to be searching for someone. Possibly Rohit Sharma. What better way to remind the national captain of his intent, what better way to impress him, than score a hundred when he is fielding, eh?

With the decision-makers due to meet later this week to thrash out the 15 for the World Cup, Jaiswal has all but settled the debate revolving around who Rohit’s partner should be for the mega event. Virat Kohli has done nothing wrong, scoring heavy, handsome and rapid runs; various pundits, among them Sourav Ganguly, the former India captain, have advocated the current skipper and his predecessor helming the batting order but Jaiswal brings a natural element that Kohli doesn’t – his left-handedness. There is nothing more frustrating for a bowling group than to have to reset the radar time after time when confronted by a left-right combination. Apart from errors in execution, it can also attract free runs and extra deliveries in the form of wides, a massive bonus in a format of the finest of margins.

Jaiswal up top alongside Rohit will also force bowlers to alter lengths on a repeated basis. Kohli and Rohit are almost of the same height and while Rohit and Jaiswal aren’t quite Ben Duckett and Zak Crawley, the impact of their dissimilarities in height on bowling units can’t be underestimated. When you have the option of unsettling both the lines and the lengths of the bowlers straightaway, why wouldn’t you want to enforce it, right?

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