“One does not expect the batsmen at 8 and 9 to score a fifty or a hundred every match, but it is important for them to put a price on their wickets”
On Day 1, it was young Prithvi Shaw, who stole the limelight with a magnificent century on debut. On Day Two, we saw Virat Kohli notch up his 24th century, but it was Ravindra Jadeja’s maiden century that stole the limelight in the end. What made it all the more special is that it came in his home ground at Rajkot. His day got even better when he picked up a wicket his first delivery and also inflicted a run-out. Jadeja had scored 9 fifties before this, but a ton has always eluded him.
Batting at 7 or 8, most of the times, Jadeja has always been a quick scorer and can as he has proved in the domestic circuit, he can play the long innings as well. The 3 triple hundreds are a testimony to that fact. Coming into bat with absolutely no pressure, Jadeja walked in and played his natural game. His innings has surely ensured that India do not have to bat again in this Test.
The Windies were made to chase leather for 150 overs and barring Shannon Gabriel’s wicket off the first over of the match, they did not have much to celebrate. After Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli and Rishabh Pant made it count and put India in a commanding position. When it comes to Tests, we have seen it has been Ravichandran Ashwin, who has always been preferred over Jadeja. Along with his effective off-spinners, Ashwin is also flexible when it comes to his batting order. He has often come in at No. 6 and scored centuries for his team. He has also come lower down at 7 or 8 and scored those gritty 50s. It is difficult to ignore someone who has over 300 wickets and also has more than 2,200 runs with the willow, but Jadeja through his performances of late – be it in the limited chances in Tests or ODIs – has given it all and has made a case for himself as the first choice spin all-rounder in the side.
All said and done, Ashwin and Jadeja find themselves in the same boat when it comes to playing in the limited-overs for India. Both of them had not played limited-overs cricket since July 2017, until Jadeja was handed a lifeline in the Asia Cup after Hardik Pandya’s injury. Jadeja did not disappoint with the bat or with the ball in that tournament as well. With the emergence of wrist spinners in 50 and 20-over formats, Jadeja and Ashwin are resigned to playing only Test cricket.
Barring dismissing Alastair Cook on a couple of occasions, Ashwin’s Test performances on the England tour was below par. With the ball, Ashwin managed just 11 wickets from 4 matches, Jadeja picked up 7 wickets in just one match. With the bat, Ashwin scored 126 at 21 in 8 innings batting low down the order, while Jadeja scored 99 in 2 innings at 99, including an unbeaten 86 at the same position. Even in South Africa, where there weren’t many high scoring Tests, Ashwin’s contribution at in the lower middle-order was 90 from 4 innings and with the ball, he picked up 7 wickets at 30.71.
One does not expect the batsmen at 8 and 9 to score a fifty or a hundred every match, but it is important for them to put a price on their wickets. Accelerate when the team needs and play out the overs when the situation demands. As mentioned earlier, Jadeja jas three triple centuries in First-Class cricket and has always batted higher than what he has batted for India. He has over 5,000 runs at that level. Ashwin, on the other hand, came into the side as a bowler, but the experimentation of sending him at No. 6 began when India toured West Indies in 2016. The experiment was a success as well, but since then, he has been used sporadically in that position. He averages over 35 in that position from 15 innings, but with other quality batsmen in the team, Ashwin was forced to return to his usual position at 8.
Similar chances were never given to Jadeja, given his prowess at the First-Class stage. He has batted mostly at Nos 7, 8 and 9. In any other team, he could probably into the side for only his batting, but in this Indian side, for some reason, he has not been tested as a regular batsman, while Ashwin – who does not have all that good a record with the bat – has been given the responsibility of playing at 6.
If at all Jadeja gets a promotion, it should not be based on just one innings. There is no permanent no. 6 in the Indian team as of now and Jadeja’s knock at Rajkot today and also given that he averages 45 in First-Class cricket would not be a bad idea to test him out there every now and then. While he is certain to play the two Tests against West Indies, what happens when India tour Australia? Will Ashwin be preferred over Jadeja once again. If so, that would be unjust on Jadeja.