It was definitely the right decision when Kedar Jadhav was called up to the Indian ODI team in 2014 after he had piled plenty of runs for Maharashtra in the Ranji Trophy - including a season-high 1223 runs in 2013-14 - and proved his limited-overs credibility mainly through the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The stocky right-handed batsman, who can also keep wickets as a part-timer, grabbed the "limited" opportunity with both hands before seriously presenting his case earlier this year in the home ODI-series against England where batting at No.6, got scores of 120, 22 and 90.
It appeared Jadhav was another one of those late bloomers and was now set for a good innings with the Indian team. Alas, almost ten months on and with just two fifties in 15 ODI innings, things have not exactly turned out that way for him.
Dinesh Karthik, on the other hand, was an early bloomer, making his ODI debut way back in 2004 in the gigantic shadows of some of the greatest Indian batsmen of all-time.
The wicketkeeper batsman failed to make the most of those early opportunities, and then shortly after MS Dhoni burst on the international scene to push him deep in the wings.
Very few players have made as many ingresses and egresses as Karthik has in the last 13 years and very recently he made yet another return to the team and featured in a three-ODI series against New Zealand where he returned scores of 37, 64* and 4* in India’s 2-1 win at home.
Apart from wicketkeeping and right-handed aspect of their batting style, Jadhav and Karthik have one more thing in common: both are 32 years old with only 67 days separating them. However, in light of their performance and impact since they both began their careers, the question that presently needs to be asked is this: are both these players doing enough to deserve a place in the Indian team?
No way should their age be held against them.
The world of sport is replete with late bloomers who have proved age is just a number but we don't have to look beyond the realm of cricket to prove this point.
Mike Hussey and Chris Rogers could also prove the point at hand. But to be frank, both Jadhav and Karthik fail to give confidence from the viewpoints of either numbers or impact or both.
Karthik averages a lowly 30 over 76 ODIs, while Jadhav averages close to 42 over 37 ODIs. Definitely one can't be overly critical about Jadhav looking at his batting average but his job is to provide a late flourish when batting first or close out the contest when chasing, and if truth be told he has been found wanting in that aspect more often than not.
Two of his three fifties this year – mind you he has scored only three fifties to date - have come in a losing cause when he had great opportunities to finish off those ties: 90 against England in January, which India lost by 5 runs, and 67 against Australia in September again on a losing cause as India lost by 21 runs.
Neither Jadhav is batting like a No.5 or No.6 batsman, nor Karthik as a No.4 batsman. Jadhav needs to understand what his predecessor Yuvraj Singh did at that position and so does Karthik in regard to the venerable batting position he has been assigned by the team management, as some of the top-notch batsmen in cricket history have plied their trade at No.4 before making way for batsmen of the similar ilk.
While they are not doing that bad, they are not performing exceptionally well either – which should be the requisite for any Indian batsman, given our long, strong and impressive batting heritage. Or maybe this is their optimum performance and they can’t do more.
In that case, captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri need to closely look at them and the situation: whether they would want to continue with these two players of limited promise or burnish and facilitate the abundant talent of KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer and many more with more keenness for the brighter future.
Another thing they need to address is that they will need to find Dhoni's replacement well before he retires from T20Is and ODIs too, and surely they can't have Karthik's wicketkeeping in mind with his vulnerability so evident at the international level.
These are definitely tough calls to make. Telling a player that they are not doing enough can't be easy but sometimes to realise bigger ambitions one has to do away with short-term plans or personnel.
When all is said and done, it will be interesting to see in the coming months if the Indian team management really acknowledges the problem and addresses it adequately or continues to go with the flow.