Should Yusuf Pathan replace Ravindra Jadeja at No 7?

Yusuf Pathan (left) and Ravindra Jadeja (right) © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

The abysmal journey Down Under exposed the limitations of some of India’s youngsters – Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja being the notable examples. While Suresh Raina made amends during the Asia Cup opener with a whirlwind knock in the slog-overs, Jadeja continued to struggle with the ball. With Yusuf Pathan in the squad and Ravichandran Ashwin and Irfan Pathan impressing with the bat in recent outings, will the team management consider axing the Saurashtra all-rounder for other available alternatives?

 

The tour of England last year was a complete disaster, but Jadeja emerged as one of the positives during the One-Day Internationals (ODIs). His comeback at The Oval was magnificent as he rescued India from a precarious position and helped set up a decent total. With the ball, he managed to dent the England run-chase with his impressive variations. All those efforts didn’t yield a positive result for India even as he was named the man of the match.

 

Nevertheless, that performance blooded in a sense of optimism into Indian cricket. For years, India has struggled to find a quality all-rounder- someone whose prowess with both bat and ball would help the side strike the right balance. In the lead-up to the 2011 World Cup, Jadeja was given opportunities to assert himself – a move that didn’t bear fruit. On his return in England, he was a transformed cricketer who exuded confidence in whatever he did. His batting, which was a disappointment during his earlier stint, had improved tremendously, and he seemed to have the extra zing with the ball.

 

When India returned for the home series against England and the West Indies, Jadeja continued his run of form and it looked like he was gradually place cementing his place in the side. However, Wasim Akram, the formerPakistan fast bowler, was quick to point out that it was too soon to suggest that India had found its all-rounder. Furthermore, he said that there wasn’t much to choose between Jadeja and Yusuf. In hindsight, Akram’s comments make sense as Jadeja’s performances went downhill in Australia after a very promising start.

 

The second T20 international against Australia at Melbourne witnessed Jadeja putting in a brilliant performance on the field. The world raved about it, and then a million-dollar paycheque came his way – courtesy the Chennai Super Kings. A responsible, match-winning knock at Perth followed – his last noteworthy performance. In seven ODIs since, he has picked up just two wickets and has a highest score of just 18 with the bat. The Indian batting collapses found him at the crease too early on a few occasions, but he didn’t make those chances count. Although he didn’t get to bat against Sri Lanka at Dhaka, his wicket-less run continued as he was spanked for 31 runs in just four overs.

 

Jadeja’s change in fortunes is eerily similar to that of Yusuf. The Baroda all-rounder had started to cement his place just prior to the World Cup as his hard-hitting batting won the hearts of many. The alarming slump started during the marquee event and continued into the West Indies tour – his last appearance in ODIs. Now that he has come back into the Indian set-up at the back of decent domestic returns, he would be pushing Jadeja for the No 7 spot.

 

Essentially, we have to see what the two add to the side. Jadeja’s bowling and fielding is his trump card over Yusuf. With the ball, Jadeja can be used like a regular, who can pick up wickets and stem the run flow. On the other hand, Pathan is more of a part-timer as his off-spinners do not have enough venom to trick the batsmen. When he was in the side, it looked like he was bowled to complete the quota of the fifth bowler. But, Jadeja’s presence strengthens the bowling department and if he falters there, it is a worry for India. Mahendra Singh Dhoni had to resort to using Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma – both part timers – during Sri Lanka’s chase at Dhaka.

 

In this case, Pathan’s inclusion in place of Jadeja makes sense. If he continues to be ineffective and Dhoni is forced to use other part-timers, Jadeja’s cannot hold on to his spot in the eleven. Pathan’s belligerent batting may strengthen the middle-order and allow the Dhoni a bit of flexibility. He can be promoted up the order when needed and his abilities come into the equation if India lose a wicket during the batting powerplay.

 

Nevertheless, axing Jadeja has its own demerits. The tour of Australia was a nightmare for the entire team with only a few bright spots. Raina’s knock at Dhaka proves that some of these players don’t take time to get into their groove in friendlier conditions. Remember, Jadeja didn’t bowl his full quota of overs and didn’t have the opportunity like Praveen Kumar, who was expensive to start with but made amends during his later overs.

 

As discussed earlier, promoting Ashwin or Irfan would be a huge gamble and India may risk breaking their bowling rhythm. Thus, Jadeja can be given some more time to pick himself up and re-establish his credentials.

 

However, Yusuf’s inclusion in the side is a very clear indication of the selectors’ intentions and India may be forced to draft him into the playing eleven in the coming games. All eyes on Dhoni!

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)