Sir Jadeja –The missing piece in jigsaw puzzle!!!
The announcement about the Indian squad for the limited-overs series against South Africa happened on Sunday. Hardik Pandya makes his much-awaited return to the team along with Bhuvi. The dropping of Kedhar Jadhav was due, given his recent track records. It is time for Jadeja to fill that spot. Unfortunately, he was left out of the limited-overs side along with Ashwin as the Indian team management preferred wrist spinners after the loss at the finals of the ICC Champions trophy in 2017. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images Of late, Sir Jadeja has been getting opportunities in the limited-overs in the absence of Pandya. One has to admit that the batting of Jadeja has improved leaps and bounds. He is playing sensibly now and understands the game situation better than his earlier days. His batting average is in the late '40s at a decent strike rate since the turn of 2019. He has been able to take the innings deep but was unsuccessful in taking the team over the line. It may be on the night of semi-final against New Zealand or the 2nd ODI match in the recently concluded limited-overs leg against the same opposition. He has taken 18 dismissals from 21 innings from the start of 2019 at an economy rate of 4.91, which is very good in the modern-day limited-overs game. With Hardik back in the team to play the role of an all-rounder, Jadeja can play the part of the sixth bowler and can add some useful runs batting at No.6 or No.7 position lower down the order. It will be hard on Jadeja if Hardik replaces him straight away, and he loses his spot in the playing XI. He has done a decent job with the bat and ball whenever given a chance. The team management should not consider playing an extra batsman in the form of Manish/Pant as it will provide India only five bowling options. This team combination of playing only five bowling options has haunted the Indian team in the past, and it should not be the way going forward. One must accept that Hardik is a better all-rounder than Jadeja in terms of both batting and bowling. He can clear the boundaries at his will, and the option of the third seam bowling option is always useful and will provide a better team composition when the team travels abroad. Jadeja can play the correct foil for Pandya in the batting as he can be the silent strike rotating partner. It is by no means degrading the striking ability of Jadeja, and he can pull it off whenever the team needs it. It's just that Hardik is more equipped, and his recent performances stand testimonial to it. Jadeja is by far the best fielder in the Indian team in the last decade and one of the best in the world. His inclusion aids the team in the fielding department, as the Indian team has rough days in the fielding in recent times. Also, with his addition, it provides the Indian team the opportunity to play the famous 'KulCha' pair (Kuldeep & Chahal) as everyone is longing. The duo has taken 75 wickets in 18 matches at an economy rate of 5 when they have played together with no third spinner in the side. India played this duo together in 23 games and won 16 outings out of that with one match tied. Such has been their dominance as they are both wicket-taking options and have a higher mindset of attacking when compared to Jadeja, who tends to be on the defensive side. This combination will bode well for both the spinners as they feed off each other, especially Chahal, who performs better when Kuldeep is there alongside. With Kuldeep, he has picked up 65 wickets at an average of 22.73, and without Kuldeep, he has taken 39 wickets at an average of 31.87. However, the absence of Chahal doesn't affect Kuldeep as his numbers are consistent. He has picked 53 wickets at an average of 29.26 with Chahal alongside. In the absence of Chahal, he has picked up 38 wickets in 18 matches at an average of 21.05. Playing both spinners alongside will also revive Kuldeep as he has been off-color in recent times. If the pitch offers more turn and spin, Jadeja can complete his full quota of overs, and Hardik can bowl sporadically to make sure that the main bowlers stay afresh. In this way, the Indian team will have the option of three seam bowling and three spin bowling options. It is more or less the right mix to have and can succeed anywhere despite the conditions on offering on any given day. When it comes to the seam bowlers, Bumrah is the mandatory stay in the Indian team. The second seam bowler slot in the SA series automatically goes to Bhuvneshwar Kumar because of the absence of Shami. He will be raring to go as he has been suffering from a series of injuries, and it has affected his performance in the last couple of years. The second slot for the seam bowling option in the long term will see a struggle between Shami and Bhuvi because of the decent performances from Shami in the recent limited-overs, and it will be hard for the team management to ignore him. If both of them perform well, India can opt to play with three frontline fast bowlers by dropping a spinner given the pitch conditions and their current form. Saini will be the backup option in case of any injury to the main bowlers. Thakur and Chahar are the other long term seam bowling options for the Indian team. As Dhawan, Rohit & Virat usually occupy the top three, it is imperative to give Shreyas and Rahul more opportunities to gain confidence and stabilize their positions, respectively, at No.4 and No.5. As Rohit is nursing an injury currently and not a part of the SA series, it is an excellent opportunity for Prithvi Shaw to showcase his skills at the more prominent stage and stake his claim for the backup opener. Pant will act as the backup wicketkeeper, and he has to bite his time as Shreyas and Rahul are currently doing well. The same goes for Manish Pandey as well. India must play as many games with this combination without any tinkering unless any injury happens. This approach will bring stability to the team, and assurance to the players about their places in the playing XI, which is not the case with the Indian team currently. This assurance will reflect on the performance of the players as they will be able to fare better and contribute to the team's success. This improvement, in turn, will yield better results for the Indian team and will be a tougher side to beat in any conditions in the future. About the Author: The post is written by Aravind . Aravind is a graduate from IIM Visakhapatnam and an avid cricket enthusiast. He follows the game with great passion. More than mere watching, he likes to analyze the game deeply and write blogs.