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India vs England 2nd Test at Lord’s: Ravichandran Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja — who is the better option?

Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have the same number of wickets at the end of four overseas Tests © Getty Images
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have the same number of wickets at the end of four overseas Tests © Getty Images

MS Dhoni will have a tough call to make at Lord’s; whether to include Ravichandran Ashwin at the cost of a pacer, or have him replace Ravindra Jadeja. Abhijit Banare looks at numbers and performances of the duo.

This conundrum would not have existed if Stuart Binny wouldn’t have forced his way in to the playing XI. It wasn’t just a match-saving 78. It was the manner in which those runs were scored — with authority and ease. There has been lot of debate about whether Ravichandran Ashwin would have made more of a difference than Ravindra Jadeja, who failed to extract enough turn from the wicket. Even before the Test ended, there had been talks of Ashwin’s inclusion in the team. The question is, at whose cost would Ashwin come in?

It would have made sense for Ashwin to join Jadeja, replacing Binny, as he is a reliable batsmen and India would have had three specialist pacers and two spinners. However, with Binny being almost a certainty, it will be a tough choice between dropping a pacer and including him in place of Jadeja.

Who is the better bowler?

Both the spinners have played four overseas Tests now. In terms of numbers, Jadeja’s record looks healthier. Though the numbers are too few to draw inference, there is a fundamental difference in the way Ashwin and Jadeja provide value to the team.

Bowler

M

Overs

Runs

W

Ave.

Jadeja

4

210

673

9

74.77

Ashwin

4

186.2

491

9

54.55

MS Dhoni loves to have a bowler who can tie one end up all day, and have another bowler attack from the other end. This is exactly what he can extract out of Jadeja. The left-arm spinner is accurate, and forces the batsman to be on the defence. He doesn’t turn the ball square or have any mystery deliveries, but the arm ball and the traditional spinners pitching in line often do the trick for Jadeja. Meanwhile, Ashwin is an attacking bowler and relishes the challenge of getting the batsman out at the cost of runs. That explains Ashwin’s higher average compared to Jadeja.

Ashwin looked mediocre on Australian pitches. Even here at Trent Bridge, the footmarks rarely offered vicious turn. Under such circumstances, altering the team combination after one Test may not be the ideal thought.

Looking at the opposition another aspect to consider for the selection is the impact these two spinners have against left-handers. England have as many as six left-handers in Alastair Cook, Gary Ballance, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad, and James Anderson.

Jadeja has picked up the wickets of five left-handers and four right-handers. Ashwin too has the same equation. Once again, the numbers are too little to draw inferences, but as mentioned earlier, Jadeja has been effective tying down the batsmen. He was equally successful in doing so against both types of batsmen in the Trent Bridge Test. Ashwin, on the other hand, gets the bowl away from left-handers (not to forget that he is busy bowling too many leg-breaks with the carom ball as well).

Batting:

Jadeja showed his potential by playing the longest Test innings of his career at Trent Bridge. Before this test, Ashwin would have made the cut thanks to his technique, but the pressure handled by Jadeja on the fifth day and his partnership with Binny would do him much good to edge out Ashwin in terms of batting merit, if India go in with one spinner.

Pitch conditions:

Sourav Ganguly, while commentating, felt Ashwin was a better option going in to the next Test. However, Nasser Hussain made a key point that the pitch at Lord’s would be the least effective for spinners. It’s likely that even in the worst case, this pitch won’t break up like subcontinent wickets. So it’s quite likely that the spinners will have to toil hard to earn their wickets

Ultimately it would come down to the bowling strategy which will decide the selection. If Dhoni opts to attack more, Ashwin would claw back despite poor overseas numbers. Whereas, Jadeja offers the option of building the pressure by tying one end up. Dhoni seems to have a liking for the latter option. It’s a tricky choice, and would be interesting to see what the skipper opts to do.

Catch all the stories from India’s tour of England 2014 here

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)

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