Ravindra Jadeja: An Indispensable All-Round Asset for Team India 

In T20Is, Ravindra Jadeja has eight wickets in nine games since World Cup but his economy of 6.25 among Indians.

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Even until a couple of years back, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal were the go-to names when it came to spin bowling options for Team India in limited-overs cricket. Although Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja did run riot with the leather in Tests, the emergence of the wily pair of ‘Kul-Cha’ slowly saw the preference shift from finger spinners to the wrist-spinners.

On expected lines, the Indian think-tank stuck to the combination even at the 2019 World Cup. For the first seven matches, Chahal and Kuldeep were tasked with picking up wickets in the middle overs.

With Rohit Sharma going all guns blazing alongside KL Rahul and skipper Virat Kohli, India’s batting relied heavily on the top. Besides, there was little confidence one could anyway have on the batting credentials of the tail – Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.


Weak Tail

In T20Is, Ravindra Jadeja has eight wickets in nine games since World Cup but his economy of 6.25 among Indians.
From Left: Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami.
(Photo: Altered by The Quint)

Although the presence of Kedar Jadhav ensured Kohli had more bowling options – one of the factors that cost them the preceding ODI series against Australia – the lean contribution with the bat lower down the order was still a significant concern for the side touted as favourites ahead of the tournament.

While it did give India a healthy start, the combination went haywire in the group game against hosts England.

Against the eventual world champions, the combined tally of Kuldeep and Chahal read: 160/1 in 20 overs. India leaked 337 runs before putting up 306/5 on the board.

It was a complex approach, one that was made keeping both the batting frailties of the lower order and the net run rate in mind. The loss also triggered a change in ploy.

Kuldeep was dropped in the following match against Bangladesh and Ravindra Jadeja got a nod in the next game against Sri Lanka. In both the matches, India’s famed batting line-up led by Sharma earned victories for the Men-in-Blue.

Prior to the game against Bangladesh, the-then batting coach Sanjay Bangar had hinted that Jadeja may get a game in the following match. However, while that didn’t happen, former cricketer and commentator Sanjay Manjrekar irked fans by stating he would “rather not have a bits-and-pieces” cricketer playing in the side.


Utility Player

In T20Is, Ravindra Jadeja has eight wickets in nine games since World Cup but his economy of 6.25 among Indians.

Jadeja responded in style – a 1/40 against Sri Lanka before that iconic 59-ball 77 against New Zealand in the semi-final albeit for a losing cause. He did return figures of 1/34 in his 10 overs too, but that was overshadowed by the swashbuckling power-hitting that had given a glimmer of hope after Sharma, KL Rahul and skipper Virat Kohli had all returned after scoring just one run.

On reaching his half-century, Jadeja executed the iconic sword celebration and while he failed to help India cross the finishing line, the statement was made: Not a bits-and-pieces cricketer.

Since that semi-final loss, Jadeja has been involved in 10 ODI matches – the most alongside Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami and Shreyas Iyer – and has picked up nine wickets. But more than the wickets, it’s the miserly economy rate of 5.64 that has often been the hallmark of his spells. With regards to his batting as well, his average of 60.50 reflects his utility with the willow down the order.

In T20Is as well, he has bagged eight wickets in nine games within the same period but his economy of 6.25 is the best for any Indian bowler, even ahead of death bowling specialist Jasprit Bumrah who has given away runs at 6.38 in eight games.

However, it has to be kept in mind that in all this while, Hardik Pandya has played only two ODIs. Nursing a back injury, Pandya has been out of action since September and won’t feature in either the ongoing ODI series or upcoming Test series against New Zealand. Once he returns, he is expected to take up the job for the first change bowler with two spinners likely to be picked between Chahal and Kuldeep with Jadeja partnering them.

It’s a happy headache for skipper Virat Kohli though, given all the three frontline spinners are in form and he has the luxury to pick and choose according to surfaces and conditions.

Keeping an eye on the T20 World Cup to follow later this year, Jadeja’s form will be crucial to the run-up of the quadrennial tournament. And if Pandya makes a smooth transition back in the side as well, India will with a deep batting order besides a bowling line-up that has the ability to clean up any side on a given day.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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