Bangladesh vs India: Hope and time are running out for Ravindra Jadeja

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Ravindra Jadeja has seen it all. From being a butt of jokes on social media to being the toast of the country. At one point of time, everything he touched turned into gold. Jokes turned into serious chants of ‘Sir Jadeja.’ He was omnipresent. He was a star… be it with the bat, ball or as a fielder. Despite strong criticism, he made huge strides on the international stage.

Ever since his ODI debut in 2009, Jadeja has been one of the mainstays in the Dhoni-led line-up. His all-round prowess gave India the much-needed balance. For the most part, he backed his selection with his performances.

“He is one of those guys who will always make something happen on the field. When he comes on to bowl, he will probably get you the breakthrough or just control the run flow straightaway. He has made a huge impact on our ODI victories.”

These were Virat Kohli’s words two years ago when Jadeja was hitting all the right notes. But as India head into the Bangladesh series, Jadeja finds himself at the crossroads, in an uncomfortable position.

A complete team performance helped India reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup. But while almost every individual contributed, Jadeja was conspicuous by his absence. He ended up with the least number of wickets for India – 9 and had the worst average (39.66), worst economy rate (5.35) and worst strike rate (44.44) for India (for bowlers with more than 30 overs).

Can Jadeja bring himself back into the reckoning as India's best all-rounder option? File Photo: AFPCan Jadeja bring himself back into the reckoning as India's best all-rounder option? File Photo: AFP

Can Jadeja bring himself back into the reckoning as India’s best all-rounder option? File Photo: AFP

It wasn’t just his bowling that was a worry. His batting too had taken a downward slope. He garnered just 57 runs from five innings at 14.25. Yes, he came into the World Cup on the back of a shoulder injury that had ruled him out of the Australia tour. But this isn’t just about one tournament either. Jadeja’s performances have been poor for the last 18 months. Since December 1, 2013, Jadeja has averaged 39.28 while bowling – second worst after Bhuvneshwar Kumar (49) for bowlers to have bowled more than 100 overs for India. His economy rate has been average – 5.35 but his strike-rate is second worst – 44.6 after Bhuvneshwar (61.1).

Overall, even part-time spinners like JP Duminy (avg 38.11, SR 41.5), Tillakaratne Dilshan (Avg 37.46, SR 42.3) Glenn Maxwell (Avg 30.25, SR 34.2), have had a better averages and strike rates than Jadeja in that same period, for players to have bowled more than 100 overs.

This sharp decline becomes even more evident when we compare them to his earlier performances. In the period between 1 January 2011 to 30 November 2013, he had a bowling average of 26.92, a strike rate of 35.1 and an economy rate of 4.59. He even became the No.1 ODI bowler in the ICC rankings. It was during this time that he scalped his career-best ODI figures of 5/36 against West Indies in the Champions Trophy 2013. He also had a decent bating average of 30.50.

The Saurashtra all-rounder hasn’t been getting the ball to spin or skid anymore. It still is fired in but without turn and bounce, it just isn’t as lethal. He needs to find his old rhythm alongwith some confidence.

With the bat, its no better, as he’s averaged just 26.50 from 13 innings. During the World Cup, Dhoni too had expressed concern over Jadeja’s batting form.

After the first three group matches where Jadeja scored 3,2 and 13, Dhoni had said. “Jadeja needs to improve and needs to step up really. We have a lot of faith in him but at the end of the day you can’t really play with hope,” Dhoni had told reporters at the WACA.

“What you want is actual performance on the field. He has that capability, he is definitely talented. He needs to keep believing in himself,” he had added.

Jadeja didn’t face much competition early on because of his specific all-round role in the team. But he has to contend with the young Akshar Patel. Dhoni has preferred Jadeja’s experience over Akshar so far.

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Akshar is still finding his feet in international cricket but he has had a decent start to his ODI career, especially his bowling. In the 13 matches he has played since January 2014, he’s picked up 16 wickets at 25, economy rate of 4.41 and strike rate of 34. But he too has struggled with the bat. This is where Jadeja might get the green signal over Akshar in the Bangladesh ODI series.

Bangladesh will be a tough opposition this time around and their batsmen do play spin well. There are very high chances that India will go in with two spinners on slow, turning pitches. Jadeja hasn’t enjoyed a good time in Bangladesh. He averages 37 while bowling and has a mediocre strike rate of 49.2 and an economy rate of 4.51.

But he can take heart from the fact that he averages 77.50 from five innings while batting. This is where he has a chance to make amends and provide strength to the lower order, where India have faced problems of late. That was one of the reasons why Virat Kohli’s batting position was altered too.

After a poor World Cup and mediocre Indian Premier League – where there were times when Dhoni demoted Jadeja down the order in favour of young Pawan Negi- his lack of form led to his axing from the Test squad against Bangladesh.

The ODI series is a good chance to redeem himself with the pitches assisting spinners. It’s high time he steps up and delivers in the limited-overs format else, he might soon find himself out of favour with Dhoni too.