Since his Test debut against England last year, Ravindra Jadeja’s performance as a bowler has been outstanding. So much so that he is nearly on par with Ravichandran Ashwin as India’s premier spinner.
On the eve of today’s Champions Trophy final against England, MS Dhoni was asked how close Jadeja was to being India’s No 1 spinner. Dhoni’s rhetorical reply of, “Can you have two No 1 spinners in the same team,” seems to suggest, on the basis of his Champions Trophy performances, the Indian skipper has the same regard for Jadeja and Ashwin.
Jadeja is currently the second leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 10 wickets. The fact that he has provided breakthroughs at crucial stages is even more impressive. In the first match against South Africa, the left-arm spinner was introduced with AB De Villers on rampage. He had an immediate impact by bowling an economical spell which would result in a suicidal run-out affected by Jadeja himself.
He changed the course of the match with his bowling, then his fielding. Against the West Indies, he stopped their resurrection with two wickets in one over and went on to get five scalps. The Pakistanis were his next target and he delivered when the game was in the balance. Against Sri Lanka, he was introduced before Ashwin and handled the promotion by dismissing Mahela Jayawardene to change the game.
With an economy rate of 3.51 and 10 wickets to his name, England will need to untangle the Jadeja puzzle if they are to beat India in the final. Given the additional pressure put on England’s top three to score quickly, they could well play into Jadeja’s hand. Apart from Alastair Cook and Eoin Morgan, the rest of the England batting is right handed and this will only have Jadeja licking his lips.
Jadeja’s performance has allowed the spinners to “hunt in pairs’ according to Dhoni. “Jadeja puts pressure on, Ashwin gets wickets and Jadeja puts pressure on, Ashwin gets wickets. Both are crucial for each other and success of the team.”
Team India has had nothing but success in this tournament. The minute the opposition has deprived India of success, Jadeja has turned things around. Team India is quietly confident because they know they have a weapon in Jadeja that can change the nature of the game within few overs.