After four years and ten months, Jayant Yadav finds a Test ‘slot’ at Wankhede

Way back in 2016, Yadav became the 16th Indian cricketer to score a Test century against England at the iconic Wankhede Stadium and was the first Indian batter to hit a Test ton from No.9.

India's Jayant Yadav plays a shot during the fourth day of the fourth Test match between India and England at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai.   -  THE HINDU

The Wankhede Stadium is special for Jayant Yadav. Way back in 2016, he became the 16th Indian cricketer to score a Test century against England at the iconic venue. That’s not all. He was the first Indian batter to hit a Test ton from No.9 and also shared a 241-run stand with Virat Kohli, guiding the team to clinch the game by an innings and 36 runs.

While he looked set for a longer stint in the Indian team, Yadav just played one more Test after that - against Australia in 2017 - and fell out of favour in the longer format.  

Even though he continued to be a key player in the domestic circuit for Haryana and also featured regularly in the Indian Premier League (IPL), an India call-up eluded him.

But on Friday, exactly four years and ten months after he played his last Test, Yadav was drafted into the side at the good old Wankhede Stadium as India took on New Zealand in the second Test. This time, he came in as a replacement for the injured Ravindra Jadeja.

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With the conditions likely to favour the spinners, the Indian team management decided to play him ahead of a sixth specialist batter, and in the process, ensured that the balance is maintained in the spin department, with Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel already in the mix.

While he is back in the team, the next five days are going to be a test of character for Yadav - who hasn’t played much of longer format cricket over the last few years.

With no Ranji Trophy held last year due to COVID-19, he had just two longer-format outings in 2019-2020 season and scalped nine wickets - including a seven-wicket haul against Jammu and Kashmir. With the bat, he could contribute 31 runs.

In the Ranji Trophy season prior to that, the steady off-spinner and dependable middle-order batter amassed 147 runs and scalped 10 wickets in six games, while he had to miss out on the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy season due to injury.

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But then, he has been a regular performer in white ball cricket and has the experience to handle tricky situations. Ahead of the Test series, he was part of the four-day camp, which was organised for the Test specialists at the Bandra-Kurla Complex and during the camp he could be seen bowling to all the batters - including Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara.

Ahead of the Mumbai Test, even bowling coach Paras Mhambrey admitted that a player like Yadav could actually be effective in the longer format.

“It is good to have someone like Jayant, who has done well in the past. He is someone who can bowl and also bat, so that’s good to have. But we also need to look at what combination we have on that wicket. If there is a slot, he is a great player, who can do the job,” Mhambrey had said.

And now that he has found a slot, Yadav would be hoping to make the most of the opportunity at a venue - which brought him glory, four seasons ago!

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