The Rock star of Indian cricket, Ravindra Jadeja, has been laid low again. His dodgy knee has flared up, a sort of crisis situation when the Indian team is trying to fit in everybody into a role for the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup on Australia.
Players do not recover from knee ailments in quicktime, and the BCCI, the team and the player will himself will know that there is no quick fix solution to the recurring injury that had kept him out of action for four months from March to June this year. The BCCI though will do everything to get the Saurashtra all-rounder on the field before the team departs for Australia.
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Jadeja’s absence from the remaining part of the Asia Cup Twenty20 tournament, will be taken by skipper Rohit Sharma and Head Coach Rahul Dravid in their stride. Injuries are part and parcel of a cricketer’s life. Sharma himself has endured it many times in his career and so has it been with the others. All-rounder Hardik Pandya is a notable example in the recent times. Jadeja’s knee played up after the second match here against Hong Kong, and on medical advise the star all-rounder had to make way for Axar Patel, another left arm spinner who has been in the thick of India’s scheme of things across all formats after his successful comeback in the four Test series against the Joe Root led England in the early part of last year.
The tall left arm finger spinner, Patel’s inclusion in the team for the Super 4 stage of the Asia Cup is an indication that the selection committee and team management is not inclined to recall the practitioner of chinaman (unorthodox left arm) in Kuldeep Yadav. They have gone for orthodox finger spinner who has 25 Twenty20 internationals under his belt, has taken 21 wickets at 27.15 and at has conceded 7.34 runs an over. After India exit from the last year’s World Twenty20 campaign here, Patel has played against New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, England and the West Indies. That he was a stand by for the Asia Cup Twenty20 here gave sufficient hints of him being the likely replacement for Jadeja in the event of the latter breaking down. And that’s exactly has happened.
Patel will be the preferred choice leading to the World Cup in Australia. He will be given game time here and also in six Twenty20 internationals the BCCI had scheduled at home — three each against Australia and South Africa — leading to the ICC’s signature event in the antipodes.
The seasoned campaigner, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and rookie leg spinner Ravi Bishnoi are also the options for skipper Sharma and Dravid, but the odds of Patel straightway getting a chance here on Sunday against Pakistan are brighter. Patel has not played a match against Pakistan and Ashwin has played five matches from 2012 to 2016, picked up three wickets, but went wicket less in the last three matches in the Asia Cup and the World Cup. Ashwin has the experience of 54 matches with 64 wickets, but he has played only three this year, and all three against the West Indies.
India arrived for the Asia Cup without Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel and now the defending champion will be without a player who has the experience and skill to excel in the three departments of the game. Though not a big hit with the bat in the shortest form of the game — Jadeja has played 64 matches, scored 457 runs, taken 51 wickets and held 25 catches — he is the kind of an all-rounder who provides the balance to the team. Jadeja has been India’s most successful in the format and the second best among the active cricketers is Patel.
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India tried Krunal Pandya from 2018 to 2021, but now the Baroda player has gone out of the reckoning. And more recently the selection committee chose Bengal and the Royal Challenger Bangalore’s Shahbaz Ahmed as a replacement for the injured off spinner Washington Sundar for the three match series in Zimbabwe. But he has not yet convinced the selection committee and the team management that he can fit into the role that’s performed by the likes of Jadeja and Patel.
With less than two months to go for the World Twenty20 to start on Australia, and with India set to face Pakistan (the opening match for both teams) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on October 23, it is more or less clear that Patel will be in the squad in the event of Jadeja not able to mend the troubling right knee.
Jadeja has played in five Twenty20 World Cups involving 22 matches and taken 21 wickets at 7.15 an over. He played an innings of great value against Pakistan in the opening Asia Cup match here and his part as a bowler and fielder against Hong Kong. He was an important cog in the wheel in these two matches, but his knee injury and not availability from the Super 4 stage onwards has left a big hole that will be difficult to fill.
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