Cricket

ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: Ravindra Jadeja, not Vijay Shankar and Dinesh Karthik, is the real story of India’s squad

  • Snehal Pradhan
  • April 16th, 2019
  • 12:06:38 IST

Everyone is talking about Vijay Shankar. About how he took his chance. About how he offers three different dimensions, as if every other cricketer exists in 2D. About whether he can end the biggest fantasy game in cricket: picking India’s No. 4.

No one is talking about Ravindra Jadeja.

Everyone is talking about Dinesh Karthik. How he is the better ‘keeper than Rishabh Pant. How he may be in the side as an option for No. 4 should Shankar feel the heat. How he can “finish matches under pressure,” as if the Nidahas Trophy final happened yesterday.

No one is talking about Ravindra Jadeja.

Everyone is even talking about Mohammed Shami. How he is that one ingredient that falls into your cake batter by accident, but suddenly makes it better. How one year ago, he was facing charges of attempted murder, and was unsure of his contract. How he wouldn’t have been here had India not rested Jasprit Bumrah in Australia.

No one is talking about Ravindra Jadeja.

On the day that the country first waited for Game of Thrones, then waited to see India’s squad for a chance at their own throne, the biggest story about Ravindra Jadeja was not about his cricket.

It was about another Game of Thrones: Jadeja’s father and sister joining one political party, and his wife joining another.

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Like his fellow finger-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, Jadeja’s white ball career seemed consigned to the recycle bin. The country was subsisting on a diet of ‘Kul-Cha’, a two-faced dish that was giving opposition batters indigestion. Even when left arm orthodox was required, fresher talents were tried. There seemed to be no room for those who turned the ball with anything less than the eight bones in the wrist. And then, ironically, Jadeja only came back into the picture thanks to a torn tendon in the finger of his competition, Axar Patel.

That occasion came in the Asia Cup in Dubai last year, and Jadeja responded with a four-wicket haul against Bangladesh. It was the first time he had taken an ODI wicket in more than a year; his last one came against the same opposition in the Champions Trophy 2017, but it was followed by three wicketless games, after which he was discarded. If you thought that was the end, you should have known better; after all, only a month before that Jadeja had returned to the Indian Test XI in England for the final Test, and he promptly took seven wickets and smashed his highest Test score of 90.

Cricketers don’t like the bench any more than IT professionals do. While in the corporate world, your HR department might arrange for a training to keep you relevant, in professional sport it’s down to you to decide how to use the time. Match days are often wasted if you’re the 12th man, as Jadeja often is owing to his superlative fielding. There is only so much training you can do in the lunch break or after the game, when everyone else is keen for the team bus and the warmth of their beds. Training days can leave you feeling like a net-bowler, with the frontline spinners often given first crack at the best batters, as you give the tail a spin.

But a snub is also an opportunity to recharge, for the bowling muscles to visit their hometowns, for the batting chinks to be sealed up. Justin Langer’s autobiography tells us that the first thing Langer did when he lost his place in the XI, is make the fitness trainer his best friend.

Jadeja may have done all this. Or then again he may just have slept a lot and practiced his swordplay. Whatever he did, it is helping.

Since his return, he has played 15 ODIs and picked up 19 wickets with an economy rate of 4.75. He kept out Yuzvendra Chahal in four of the five ODIs at home against Australia. His run out of Glenn Maxwell in the the same series, in partnership with MS Dhoni, showed how he can still take wickets even when he’s not bowling.

All of this has convinced the selectors to pick him over a fourth seamer, for a tournament in England. And no matter how much they say IPL form doesn’t matter, his sleeping six against Rajasthan Royals and the unbeaten 31 off 17 against Kolkata Knight Riders would have helped remind the selectors of his ‘third dimension’. “There might be a situation where you might require an additional all-rounder in the playing XI, which Jadeja brings in. In the second part of the tournament, where the wickets may be a bit more dry, that is where we felt Jadeja will come in handy,” said MSK Prasad of Jadeja’s inclusion.

He may not get a game in England, but especially with his fielding, he will keep Chahal and Kuldeep on their toes. Then again, this is Jadeja. So if India play the final in July, don’t be surprised if you see him in the XI.

The author is a former India cricketer, and now a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She hosts the YouTube Channel, ‘Cricket With Snehal’, and tweets @SnehalPradhan

Updated Date: April 16, 2019 12:06:38 IST

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