The ODI package Ravindra Jadeja adds substance to Team India's World Cup plans

The ODI package Ravindra Jadeja adds substance to Team India's World Cup plans

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Making a comeback into the Indian ODI team after more than a year, Ravindra Jadeja was exceptional with his bowling against Bangladesh yesterday in Dubai. With his four-wicket haul from the game, he can now be certainly considered for the 2019 World Cup to be held in England next year.

It was supposed to be Palam Ground and not Dubai International Stadium. It was supposed to be under the age-old captaincy of Jaydev Shah and not the innovative new-age Rohit Sharma methodology. The modus operandi for the left-arm spinner from Saurashtra, however, was not going to be any different. Ravindra Jadeja is not a cricket tragic, but certainly, the one who swears to give his best each and every time he steps on to the field. Even though he plays a domestic match of no significance in some corner of the country or a Champions Trophy final in England, Ravindra Jadeja approaches the game with same seriousness like every battle is a bloody chance to prove the world wrong.

Otherwise, how would you justify his calm head when he was relegated to be the third spinner in the team for the England Test tour, even below Kuldeep Yadav in the pecking order? But, Jadeja made a comeback, showed the magic at The Oval, and then returned to his farm to ride his horses. Then, he got on a flight, reached Delhi immediately to represent Saurashtra and then got another call, and even before anyone realised anything, he was picking wickets in India colours again. Such is the life and improbability of being Ravindra Jadeja - one that divides opinion.

Jadeja played an ODI after a gap of 14 months and didn't look out of place. It was rather reunion made in heaven thanks to the wicket in Dubai. It did not spin alarmingly but spun enough to ring alarms for the Bangladeshi batsmen while facing the left-arm spinner. In a matter of one over, he dismissed Shakib Al Hasan and was back in the scheme of the things. 

He last played a limited-overs match in July 2017 against West Indies and returned without a single wicket. Jadeja, along with Ravichandran Ashwin, was "rested" for the Sri Lanka tour and the team management decided to carry out an experiment with Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav in the team with Axar Patel as the back-up spinner. The inclusion of two wrist spinners did wonders and the senior pros were again excluded from the home series against Australia and have continued to be on the sidelines ever since. But the door of opportunity was there and Jadeja unbolted with a thud.

Although both Yadav and Chahal have been successful in limited-overs cricket over the last year or so, Jadeja is still the bowler (his batting and fielding skills will be up for debate later) India want in the side. He can be handy in any conditions considering his ability to bowl wicket to wicket. He has the skill of mixing up the pace of the ball and bowling with different angles to trouble the batsmen and his occasional flighted deliveries have always troubled the opponents. His arm-ball keeps the batsmen guessing about which one will turn and which one won't. Another X-factor of Jadeja's bowling is the pace at which he manages to finish his overs. You blink as a batsman and he scores on you and in the age of slow over-rates, he is a messiah to his skipper saving him from prospective fines and bans. But more than that, he doesn't allow the batsmen the time to think. 

For an instance, let's talk about the dismissals of Shakib Al Hasan and Mohammad Mithun in yesterday's match. Jadeja's full repertoire was on the show. In his first over, he had already gone for a couple of fours and MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma discussed with him and brought Shikhar Dhawan at square leg and got the left-hander out. But the precursor to that ball was what showed Jadeja's strength. The first two balls landed in the same spot as the third one. While the first one thanks to the powerplay in progress was flatter and carved through covers, the second one was swept without inhibitions and suddenly Shakib's ego as a batsman had bloated up. MS and Rohit manned the square leg region and Jadeja again landed it in the same spot. Shakib went for the sweep and it landed in the hands of the fielder. 

Jadeja was just getting started. He struck again and trapped Mithun in the 16th over of the innings. This time used the crease and the angle of his balls to spell further doom for Bangladesh. He was bowling from round the wicket to the right-handed batsman but the one in which he sent back Mithun, he came very close to the sticks at the bowler's end and got it to straighten. And again the previous two balls bowled to Mithun had set him up. The first one bowled from wide of the crease got him lunging forward, the second one widest of the crease only got the batsman thinking that he had to push forward. The deadly arm ball followed and the batsman was hit on the move and trapped! Justice to the fact that he had set him up in the previous over and should have had him as India had not taken the review then thinking it was bat first.

However, India has relayed on two wrist spinners in the form of Kuldeep and Chahal in limited-overs cricket. Considering the regular playing XI that the Indians are going with now, Kedar Jadhav is the only finger spinner but he is a part-timer, albeit a threatening one at times. Although Axar Patel forms a part of the squad, his performances have paled out. So now with the World Cup scheduled to be held in England, going in with two wrist spinners is sometimes risky. So Jadeja gives India that option of a finger spinner who can turn it away from the right-handed batsmen and ideally can be a replacement of Chahal in times of need. Apart from the last Champions Trophy, Jadeja has had a terrific track record in England. He has picked up 27 wickets in ODIs in England and was the highest wicket-taker in the 2013 Champions Trophy which was held there. His best bowling figures in ODIs 5/36 came in England as well against West Indies.

What Jadeja gives to the team is the depth to the Indian batting. He effectively can come on to bat at number seven/eight and whenever needed can play an important role and in case of a batting collapse in a big tournament, his batting prowess can come in handy. In his couple of knocks in the recently concluded Test series in England, there was ample proof that is an improved batsman. He averages more than 70(a few not-outs of course help) in England in 10 ODI innings and has already got a couple of fifties to his name. His knock in the finale of the Champions Trophy was the clincher for India as well.

When you talk about Jadeja, you just can't ignore his fielding. He is a live-wire on the field and his quick and direct hits are effective as well. He is someone who can save at least 10-15 runs on the field and that becomes something really important these days. Modern day games are unforgiving and people who create chances are packages which cannot be ignored. Virat Kohli has always looked for characters and Jadeja is one Kohli can always turn to in times of crisis.

With the wide range of varieties with the ball, the ability to hit the ball high, the Saurashtra all-rounder makes a clear case for himself to garner a ticket to the World Cup. Now it remains to be seen, how he capitalises on the remaining chances that he is going to get in the Asia Cup and other ODI games prior to the global event next year.

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