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“He may not be a regular in India’s ODI or T20I XI, but with his spirited performances, beginning with The Oval Test, he has proved that he is ready to deliver when asked of him. The India team management should not take that for granted”

January 25, 2014.

Ravindra Jadeja almost took India to the brink of victory against New Zealand at Auckland.

However, his 2 for 47 and an unbeaten 66 off 45 deliveries helped India tie the match from an improbable position. Fast forward to 4 and a half years later, Jadeja is now on the fringes of the Indian limited-overs team and is just a back-up to the two wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. Making his return in the ODI team after a gap of 18 months, Jadeja, who replaced Hardik Pandya as the all-rounder in the side, has not disappointed. Be it with the ball or with the bat, Jadeja coming in at No. 8, gives his side hope and belief that he can deliver even if others have failed.

Jadeja can walk into the XI as a spinner or an all-rounder. While Hardik Pandya has been donning the role of a fast bowling all-rounder, in his absence, India decided to go in with a spin bowling all-rounder, with Jadeja’s name topping the list.

With the ball, there is no question when it comes to his accuracy. He can land the ball all day in one particular area, frustrate the batsmen, which then eventually leads to wickets. In the match against Afghanistan, Jadeja was once again the star with the ball, finishing with 3-46. he came in at No. 7, with India comfortably placed, needing just 49 runs from 67 deliveries. He was running out of partners, but he held one end up, knowing that he will be key to India winning this match. He has found a lot of success under MS Dhoni. And in Dhoni’s 200th match in charge, it would have been befitting to secure a win as this very well could be his last match as captain.

Being calm in crunch situations is extremely important and Jadeja displayed that extremely well. Right from his Under-19 days, he has always played his cricket with a lot of passion and under no circumstances has he let the pressure get to him. With wickets tumbling at the other end, Jadeja takes the game to the final over, where India need just 7, but have just 2 wickets in hand to make things worse, Rashid Khan was handed the ball.

Jadeja smashes the second delivery to the fence, calmly, but does not celebrate or look overly happy. He knows he still has a job in hand. However, some clever bowling and field placement in the penultimate delivery handed Afghanistan the final wicket and India had to settle for a tie. It was Jadeja once again who had rescued India, just like he did at Auckland, years ago.

The opportunity to play in the Asia Cup, is nothing short of a huge lifeline for Jadeja. Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel and Shardul Thakur were injured and in came Jadeja, Deepak Chahar and also Siddarth Kaul. In Jadeja, India had a left-arm spinner and an all-rounder, making up for the losses of both Pandya and Axar.

India decided to draft Jadeja into the XI right away and he did not disappoint. He has picked up 7 wickets in 3 matches and almost to India to a win in a crunch situation with the bat against Afghanistan. The final against Pakistan could be Jadeja’s final ODI game in a long time, but at least he has ensured that if India need to fill in an all-rounder or a finger spinner’s slot, he will be the first name to come up. When Virat Kohli returns as captain, Jadeja will go back to being a back-up as he is inclined towards wrist spinners in limited-overs cricket.

Even when it comes to Test cricket, if India want to play just one spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin gets the nod ahead of Jadeja. Jadeja made a case for himself as the lone spinner even in the Test side when he scored a fifty and picked up 7 wickets in the fifth and final Test at The Oval. While Ashwin did alright in a couple of Tests, he did not do enough to warrant a place in the latter stages of the series. Plus, an injury to Ashwin and the fact that India had nothing to lose going into The Oval tipped the scales in Jadeja’s favour. Kohli and the Indian team management will not hesitate to pick Jadeja over Ashwin, if needed, given his good show at The Oval.

While Pandya is India’s fast bowling all-rounder, the one who gives India the balance with both bat and ball, Jadeja is not far behind and is a handy option if India need a spin bowling all-rounder. With India playing home series against West Indies next, Jadeja will surely play the Test series. It would not be a bad idea to test him in the limited-overs as well. With the World Cup a few months away, it would behove India to cement their third spinner in ODIs. With 139 ODIs under his belt, more than Kuldeep, Chahal and Pandya combined, Jadeja is a perfect back-up as India’s spinner and an all-rounder. His excellent performance in the Asia Cup will hopefully be rewarded.

He may not be a regular in India’s ODI or T20I XI, but with his spirited performances, beginning with The Oval Test, he has proved that he is ready to deliver when asked of him. The India team management should not take that for granted.

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