“Jadeja is certainly making a case for himself as the spin all-rounder in the team. He has the number and the ability to play that role in the team, even if it comes at the cost of Ashwin in the XI”
This was not the first time Ravindra Jadeja replaced an injured Ravichandran Ashwin in a Test recently. At The Oval, he scored a brilliant unbeaten 86 in his first outing in the tour and followed that up with 7 wickets with the ball. Ashwin bowled well in the first Test at Adelaide but did not take part in the rest of the series due to an injury. It was Jadeja, who again made the best use of that opportunity. At Melbourne, Jadeja picked up 5 wickets – all of which were top or middle-order batsmen. And now at Sydney, he has already made an impact by scoring 81 in the first innings but more importantly put on 204 runs with Rishabh Pant for the seventh wicket to take India’s total to mammoth 622. It is safe to say that India have batted Australia out of the match and it is now up to Australia, who are trailing the series 1-2, to do something spectacular and force a result in their favour.
The limelight at Sydney will no doubt be on Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant who slammed cracking centuries to give India the initiative. However, came under some criticism for having as many as 4 No.11s in their line-up in the series at Perth, when they decided to play 4 fast bowlers. With Jadeja slotted in at No. 8, it gives the batting unit a bit more depth and stability. But his presence will be of no use if he too threw his wicket away. With 5,000-plus First-Class runs with an average of 46-plus, we know that Jadeja can bat and bat well. The track at SCG was a flat one and it was a pitch where the batsmen could play their shots with ease – be it driving on the up or cutting the ball off the back foot – there were no demons on the pitch and the batsmen get full value for their strokes.
Jadeja is in the team primarily as a bowler and in the absence of Ashwin, is the lead spinner in the team. Like he has done before, he can bowl at the same spot, with great accuracy all day long. As a batsman, you may get frustrated dealing with such deliveries and may play a rash shot. Jadeja thrives on such opportunities. You have a slip and two catchers nearby, Jadeja with a bit of assistance from the pitch, will get you those wickets or at least frustrate the batsman enough so that his bowling partner gets the wicket. We have seen the way Nathan Lyon has bowled in not-so-spin-friendly conditions. Especially in Perth, when India thought that the pacers would get the job done, Lyon popped with magical spells and finished with 8 wickets in the game to walk home with the player of the match award.
Jadeja in this match has Kuldeep Yadav as his spin bowling partner this time. Kuldeep has not played many Tests, but the batsmen, especially in the limited-overs, have found it difficult to read him. In fact, Kuldeep was selected ahead of Jadeja at Lord’s and it did not work out particularly well for India. However, the situation is now different and there is no reason why the Jadeja-Kuldeep partnership will not work in this match.
The next time Ashwin is fit and there is a need to play just one spinner, it will be Ashwin who is once again preferred over Jadeja. Virat Kohli has a lot of faith in Ashwin’s abilities as he has been a match-winner many a time for India over the last couple of years. Ashwin’s record in the SENA countries should, however, give Jadeja the edge. Ashwin has played 16 matches in SENA countries and has managed to pick up 48 wickets at 43.37- which is among the worst averages for a spinner with a minimum of 30 wickets – behind England’s Ashley Giles (43.3). Jadeja, on the other hand, has 30 wickets in SENA countries at 40.56 and also has a 5-wicket haul, unlike Ashwin.
Statistics also suggest that Jadeja is a far better batsman than Ashwin. Jadeja has 1,485 Test runs at 32.28, while Ashwin has 2,361 runs at 29.14. however, when you compare their First-Class numbers, there is absolutely no denying Jadeja’s superiority. While Jadeja averages more than 46 with the bat, Ashwin averages just above 30.
In fact, if you do a comparison with the bat in Tests in the last two years, Ashwin has scored 545 runs from 21 Tests at 18.79, with just one fifty to his name. Jadeja, on the other hand, has hit 637 runs from 16 matches at 45.50, which included one hundred and six fifties. Added to this, injuries are doing Ashwin no good. Jadeja has walked into his place and delivered and going by Jadeja’s performances in the last two years and also in unchartered territories, it is Jadeja who clearly has the upper hand.
While Ashwin and Jadeja weave their magic together at home, it is perhaps time for Jadeja to be the first-choice spinner in overseas conditions. Of course, it will not be an easy decision for a team to leave someone with 340-plus wickets out of the team, but Jadeja has earned his spot in the XI.
Jadeja is certainly making a case for himself as the spin all-rounder in the team. He has the number and the ability to play that role in the team, even if it comes at the cost of Ashwin in the XI.