Making strong case for himself

Making strong case for himself

A parsimonious bowler, an exceptional fielder and a decent batsman, Jadeja brings a lot to the table. AFP

The unorthodox Peter Handscomb and the big-hitting Marcus Stoinis were threatening to steal a win for the Australians in the second ODI here on Tuesday. The duo, after negating some early pressure from the Indian bowlers with obdurate batting, had slowly started to switch gears.

It needed a moment of brilliance for the partnership to be broken and haul India back. A sharp catch, a brilliant ball, a lucky run-out, India needed something special. And Ravindra Jadeja, battling to secure a place in the World Cup bound squad, provided that in the 38th over.

Handscomb dabbed a Mohammed Shami ball to backward point and set off for a quick single. Jadeja, one of the best fielders in this Indian team, was off the blocks in a flash. In one motion he charged at the ball, picked it up and knocked the stumps down at the non-striker’s end with a flat and powerful throw. The on-field umpire sought the help of his TV colleague but the Indians were already celebrating. A distraught Handscomb, knowing he’d taken on the wrong man, started the long walk back.

While the match ebbed and flowed thereafter before coming to a thrilling climax with the Indians emerging victors, that vital contribution of Jadeja highlighted the all-round value he brings to this Indian side where competition for places is immense.

An exceptional fielder inside and outside the 30-yard circle, Jadeja is one man Virat Kohli loves to have on the park even if the Saurashtra cricketer is not picked in the XI. He’s a terrier at backward point, hardly letting anything go past him. In the outfield, his remarkable covering of angles, the speed at which he gets onto the ball and the quick, flat throws has stopped the batsmen from stealing that extra run.

Crucial aspect

Fielding, a crucial aspect in this modern times, is just one part of Jadeja. The 30-year-old, with a love for horse-riding and wildlife, is a good performer with the ball too. He’s not a wicket-taking spinner like Kuldeep Yadav or Yuzvendra Chahal, but a stump-to-stump operator who can dry up the runs and allow the attack-minded bowlers to have a charge from the other end. He offers control when others go for runs in pursuit of wickets.

Jadeja is no muck with the bat too. While he hasn’t lived up to his potential, Jadeja can hold his end up strongly, like in second ODI where he forged an important 67-run stand with Kohli with a dogged 40-ball 21. Jadeja even has the ability to smack them out of the park.

Banished into the wilderness after the 2017 Champions Trophy before being handed a surprise recall in the Asia Cup last September, Jadeja has been making a strong case for himself with whatever opportunities he’s got. Only the third choice spinner behind Chahal and Kuldeep, Jadeja grabbed seven wickets in four games in Asia Cup and matched that effort against the West Indies in the home series.

He didn’t set the house on fire in the three ODIs against Australia Down Under but has upped the ante this home series. With Chahal and Kuldeep having all but confirmed their World Cup tickets following impressive performances, Kohli has handed a one last trial for Jadeja this series. That’s one plausible reasoning behind Kohli opting to start with Jadeja ahead of Chahal in India’s last international commitment before the World Cup.

A Rajput, Jadeja has the warrior-like mentality to fight battles in his blood. It’s that willpower that has kept him alive despite being cast aside not long ago. One doesn’t know if Jadeja will get more games at the cost of a frontline spinner in the remaining three ODIs. Even if he doesn’t, he has certainly left a mark which will be hard for the selectors to ignore when they sit-down to name the squad for World Cup. A parsimonious bowler, an exceptional fielder and a decent batsman, Jadeja is a wonderful package. It’s up to the wise men to decide the rest.