Ravindra Jadeja’s claims to be a regular part of the Indian XI for each game in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England and Wales are getting stronger by the day. The left-hander has been compelling everyone concerned to weigh his all-round skills, his experience as well as the conditions in England when making their final choices.
For someone who was out of the mix for a good part of two years since the ICC Champions Trophy final, he has done well to work his way back into the consciousness of the team management with his steady and intelligent bowling. The time is on hand for him to make a contribution to India’s push to be in the frame when the World Cup draws to a close on 14 July.
The wonderful traits of resilience and self-belief that fuelled his journey into the World Cup team in the past year or so will have to be in greater evidence over the next six weeks for his own and India’s benefit. If he can bring them to the fore, he may end up playing a very important role in India’s campaign in the tournament.
A lot of students of the game believe that he is competing with Kedar Jadhav for a spot in the XI. He is not. His place in the side is dependent on the composition of the bowling attack that the tour selectors will prefer. They must take into account the element of uncertainty that comes along with playing two wrist spinners. That will be reduced with Jadeja on the field. However, the left-arm spinner can vary the pace and trajectory of the ball, which in turn can tie down the batsmen. Jadeja can more than merely chip in with his bowling, especially on the bald pitches where the bowler’s only ally, besides the line and length that are basic anywhere, can be the extra bounce.
There can be no doubt that his fielding can provide sparks of brilliance that will energise the team. He has the ability to pressure the batsmen with his anticipation and reflexes, making them wary of attempting singles when the ball is played in his direction.
Jadeja’s batting, perhaps never fully exploited or showcased, can be rather handy at No 8 and will increase the depth by that much. When he is batting, he perhaps needs to remind himself that he has to be sharper with his judgment when running between the wickets. This stems from a fleeting image — of Mahendra Singh Dhoni having a word with Jadeja — that flickered on our TV sets some moments after the Indian Premier League final a few weeks ago.
It is a good guess that Dhoni would have quietly chided him for his decision to not reject Shane Watson’s call for a second run. It is also possible that the Chennai Super Kings skipper would have liked Jadeja to take strike off the final ball rather than leave the task of getting two runs to tailender Shardul Thakur. The Indian team will need him to make the best decisions all the time.
Jadeja will have to convince to bat through the innings, no matter what situation he walks in. Unless, of course, in the unlikely event of the team assigning him the role of a pinch-hitter when he will have to play the big shots from very early in the innings. With the tailenders not inspiring the confidence of fighting long and hard, it will be up to him to bat through the final overs.
The good thing is that Jadeja can be expected to draw on his experience of not only playing the 2015 edition of the World Cup, but also of competing in England this decade. And if he makes the best use of that knowledge, the team can be a big beneficiary. He has put his hand up, and quite clearly at that, but it remains to be seen how the team management responds to that stimulus.
The value that the 30-year-old brings to the table as an all-rounder can help him become a lynchpin in this World Cup. If he enjoys every opportunity to uncoil his skills to the fullest potential, without worrying too much about whether he gets to play the following match or not, he can make this tournament his own even in a strong outfit that India really are.