Three Tests in South Africa. Now four in England. More than actual testing Test match tours, the visits to the mentioned places have been mere sightseeing tours for the world’s third ranked bowler, Ravindra Jadeja. After facing yet another overseas Test series thrashing, team India now can reflect on what went wrong. Well, the biggest wrong endured by the world’s number one Test side has to be the move to continuously bench a true match winner in Ravindra Jadeja.
Jadeja isn’t just your another slow left arm spinner who relies on the wicket to do something and deceive the batsmen. Instead, the colorful all rounder possesses various weapons in his arsenal which compound the worries of the batsmen.
BEST PLAYER OF THE SEASON:
The above statement was pretty evident during India’s glorious home season of 2016/17, when the side won 9 out of the 12 Tests against New Zealand, England and Australia. Across those 13Tests, Jadeja was the spine of India’s bowling attack, and along with R. Ashwin ran through batting lineups.
In the mentioned period, Ravindra Jadeja took 71 wickets in 13 games at 22.83, including 4 five wicket hauls. Apart from his extremely miserly bowling, Jadeja also played some priceless cameos, as he scored 556 runs at 42.76. His knock of 90 against England at Mohali was profusely crucial as it enabled India to gain a first innings lead after a collapse.
The question here remains. If Jadeja was your best player and the team’s X factor across the extended home season, why wasn’t he trusted even for one match in South Africa and England. Yes, the bowling has done well away from home off late, but it has surely lacked the finishing touches of Jadeja. Not even in one game, did the management show faith in the highest ranked spinner of the world. This has been simply appalling.
WHY AND HOW WAS HE MISSED?
While R. Ashwin performed reasonably well in South Africa and England, India needed someone to support him. Backing Hardik Pandya for seven Tests now in a succession has turned out to be a move with disastrous consequences. Across those seven games, Pandya has just one good batting and bowling performance to stake a claim for himself as an all rounder.
Barring that 90 odd at Cape Town and the five fer at Nottingham, Pandya has been a shambolic addition. If not anything, Pandya’s inclusion has added more doubt than clarity for India across these seven overseas Test matches.
Jadeja on the other hand, would have brought a skill set which has no substitute what so ever – EXPERIENCE. The left arm spinner has a six wicket haul in South Africa before on a flat road, but all this was overlooked. Who can even forget his contribution in the Lord’s Test of 2014 as his attacking half century in the second innings gave India the ascendancy. But then, the management chose to persist with someone, who just had promise, but no execution.
At Edgbaston and Southampton, on both occasions, the Indian bowlers allowed the English lower order to gain momentum. Ashwin alone was helpless and endured a tough outing. Hardik Pandya on the other hand, gave easy runs as Sam Curran toyed with him in the first innings. Pandya’s batting and shot selection was horrible to say the least in both innings.
Had Jadeja been there, his tight stump to stump bowling would have definitely strangled England and controlled the flow of runs from his end. This would have allowed Ashwin to attack more viciously, without worrying about the flow of runs. This was India’s success mantra in the glorious home season, but the same strategy was blindly neglected this time around.
IN THE ELITE LIST SINCE DEBUT:
Since Ravindra Jadeja’s Test debut, six bowlers have more Test wickets than him. However, all the six bowlers, have played AT LEAST ten more Tests than him. With 171 wickets at 23.11, Jadeja has the best bowling average for a spinner since his debut. For a bowler with minimum 150 wickets in the mentioned period, Jadeja’s bowling average is second only to that of South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada.
With the series gone, India have nothing to lose at The Oval. With Ashwin being half fit, its simply a no brainer to get Jadeja in the side. Writing off someone as talented as Jadeja, who also happens to be in the list of the top all rounders in Test cricket, is nothing but a sheer blunder. Keeping in mind the tour of Australia, where the wickets will have some bounce, Jadeja should be given a go at the Oval and must be trusted well ahead of the likes of Hardik Pandya.