Balancing the all-rounder Jadeja's absence
Posted September 16, 2022 in Cricket.
Cricket, A game which is played with the help of 11 players on each side is quite quick to change sides in the absence of even one of these 11. That’s the beauty of the game. The so-called "team game" is now more than ever reliant on individual brilliance to win games. While one individual can certainly not help any team win games single-handedly, they will ensure the balance of the squad. The correct equilibrium, the perfect flavor, and the right taste for the opponents. One such player in India is Sir Ravindra Jadeja.
India’s star batting all-rounder was ruled out of the Asia Cup 2022 and is likely to miss even the T20 World Cup in Australia with a major knee injury. The BCCI is yet to provide concrete confirmation of the injury, but it is believed that Jadeja injured his knee during the India-Hong Kong match. The BCCI was quick to announce an apple-to-apple replacement for Jadeja with Axar Patel.
How does Jadeja’s absence affect the balance of the T20 squad?
Ravindra Jadeja has been one such player whose batting abilities have drastically improved in the last three to four years. Jadeja used to average under 19 in T20 cricket (18.67 being his best) till 2017, with averages of 9, 4.5, 5.01, and 6.33 in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016 respectively. However, since 2017, Jadeja’s resurgence has been tremendous. Jadeja’s batting powers have helped India find a floater in his name who can be a dependable contributor with the bat and who can shift gears at will and can even stabilise the innings at the crucial number four position, much like in the game against Pakistan in the Asia Cup, where he scored a fighting 35 off just 29 deliveries and provided two important partnerships with Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya.
The all-rounder also plays an important role in providing the right tinge of balance to the squad with KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, and Virat Kohli, most likely to be India’s top 3. We lack a left-handed batter in the top five or six with Suryakumar, Hardik, and Dinesh Karthik in India’s scheme of things. Jadeja, being a left-hander, was used to capitalise on the left-right hand combination, which forced the opposition captain and the bowler to keep changing the field placements and the bowling plans. Jadeja’s absence could mean either Rishabh Pant, who doesn’t have a great T20 international record with an average of just 23.86 with a very below-par strike rate of 126.32 in 48 innings, walks into the playing eleven.
This further disrupts India's balance as Dinesh Karthik, whom India is looking to as the Messiah to finish games, and whose sole role in the squad for the past six months has been that of a finisher, goes for a toss. With just one left-hander in the starting eight, it will only mean the opposition can target Indian batting with leggies and left-arm bowlers, which India already has a weakness against.
Will Axar Patel be able to fit into Jadeja’s shoes?
Now the question that ignites within the Indian fans and India’s preparation for the world cup is whether Axar Patel is really a like-to-like replacement for Jadeja. Or are we just wearing a thicker sock to fit a loose number eight shoe into a number seven foot? On one hand, we have Jadeja, a 33-year-old veteran with 64 T20 international matches under his belt, and on the other, we have Axar, a 28-year-old rookie with experience of 25 international T20i matches. While Jadeja has a batting strike rate of just 124.52, Patel strikes at 137.38 with the bat. While neither all-rounder has scored an international fifty, both don't have an exceptional batting average, with Jadeja averaging 24.05 and Axar averaging 18.38 in the 17 or so innings Patel has batted for India. In the bowling department, too, there isn’t much that differentiates both of them. They are both accurate; they bowl stump to stump and their bowling average and economy reciprocate the same. Jadeja averages 28.49 with the ball with an economy rate of 7.05. Jadeja has taken 12.88% of the team’s total wickets in every match, having taken three wickets three times in his T20 career. Axar more or less has similar numbers with an average of 27.19, an economy of 7.34, and has taken three wickets in an innings three times, much like Jadeja. Apart from both being left-arm batters and left-arm orthodox bowlers with almost identical numbers, they both hail from Gujarat. The Gujarati all-rounders are both tremendous fielders, but on any given day, a team would want Jadeja’s fielding and that rocket of an arm in their squad. While Jadeja and Patel both represent a miniscule difference in batting average and strike rate, the former will walk into any playing eleven and not just India's without a second thought on the grounds of his reliable batting and fielding abilities.
All the new permutations and combinations are now coming into the picture just due to the absence of one individual player in this team game of 11 players. Yes, that’s the irony of this game and the lack of depth of sheer all-rounders in India’s squad. It will be interesting to see how India approaches this situation with just three guaranteed matches at the Asia Cup and two bilateral three-match series against Australia and South Africa leading up to the World Cup.
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