Ravindra Jadeja (left) has shown promise as a genuine all-rounder. Irfan Pathan promised much, but faded away © Getty Images
Ravindra Jadeja (left) has shown promise as a genuine all-rounder. Irfan Pathan promised much, but faded away © Getty Images

 

By Dileep V

 

Since Kapil Dev’s exit, no Indian has made the all-rounder’s position his own in ODIs. Ravi Shastri and Manoj Prabhakar filled in admirably even when Kapil was still part of the team, but later in his career Shastri was more of a top-order batsman who could chip in with few overs, while Prabhakar was a strike bowler who could contribute with the bat – he also went on to open the innings for India in ODIs.

 

Players like Robin Singh, Sunil Joshi, Ajit Agarkar, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Nikhil Chopra, Vijay Bharadwaj, Sridharan Sriram, Reetinder Sodhi and Sanjay Bangar were all tried; some of them came up with sporadic meaningful displays, but not to the extent to be called a premier all-rounder.

 

The all-rounder’s position has always been India’s bane, often letting them down in major tournaments – especially outside the sub-continent. Few early wickets taken by the strike bowlers wasn’t taken advantage of, or when top-order collapsed there wasn’t one in lower-order to take the innings through because of the absence of a genuine all-rounder.

 

ODI performances of above-mentioned players

 

Player

M

Runs

Batting Avge

Wkts

Bowling Avge

Robin Singh (1989-2001)

136

2336

25.95

69

43.26

Sunil Joshi (1996-2001)

69

584

17.17

69

36.36

Ajit Agarkar (1998-2007)

191

1269

14.58

288

27.85

Hrishikesh Kanitkar (1997-2000)

34

339

17.84

17

47.23

Nikhil Chopra (1998-2000)

39

310

15.50

46

27.95

Vijay Bharadwaj (1999-2002)

10

136

27.20

16

19.18

Sridharan Sriram (2000-2004)

8

81

13.50

9

30.44

Reetinder Sodhi (2000-2002)

18

280

25.45

5

73.00

Sanjay Bangar (2002-2004)

15

180

13.84

7

54.85

 

Bharadwaj’s case is pretty curious one, he claimed “Man of the Series” award in his debut series in Kenya. His 10 matches yielded 16 wickets at an impressive average of less than 20, strike rate of 23.2 and economy under five. He also averaged in the high 20s with the bat. His exclusion after two successful series still remains a mystery. In fact, his Shahid Afridi-like style of bowling fastish off-spin would have suited limited-overs cricket. That he was top-order batsman for a powerful team like Karnataka was an added asset. The injury in Australia came at the wrong time for him and by time he made his return, the team was already playing with a set combination and he found it difficult to break into the team.

 

Reetinder Sodhi was one example where lack of proper grooming and persistence lead in his decline. The Punjab cricketer was the captain in India’s U-15 World Cup win in England, and later on was vice-captain in U-19 World Cup win in Sri Lanka. Some people thought he was a richer talent than Yuvraj Singh who did fairly well in the limited outings he got. For a newcomer and a lower-order batsman, his average and contribution were decent and his bowling figures would have been lot better had he played more matches outside India.

 

In the absence of a world class all-rounder, India has used Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj with copious success, but that has mostly been in the subcontinent. Tendulkar has won numerous matches with his off/leg spinners and Yuvraj’s contribution with the ball in the 2011 World Cup made sure India didn’t miss a world class all-rounder in the tournament. Ganguly has had success where the ball swung a bit. Since these players are primarily batsman and part-time bowlers, more often than not conceded too many easy runs to the team’s liking.

 

In recent times, Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan and, of late, Ravindra Jadeja have laid claim for the coveted position. The way Irfan started his career there was talk of him emulating Kapil Dev. But sadly he lost his swing, then confidence and ultimately his place in the team. In recent years he has cut down on his pace and concentrated on curbing the runs than being a strike bowler. It has bought him some success in the Indian Premier League (IPL) but hasn’t been able to convince the selectors. Jadeja has been doing a decent job, but he is more suited to the Indian conditions and might come a cropper outside, like it happened in England in 2010 T20 World Cup. Yusuf is more of a belter of the ball and can do a good job with the ball on his off days, but can’t be relied upon to deliver with both bat and ball on a regular basis.

 

Irfan, Yusuf and Jadeja’s performance in ODIs

 

Player

M

Runs

Batting Avge

Wkts

Bowling Avge

Irfan Pathan

107

1368

22.80

152

29.91

Yusuf Pathan

56

810

27.00

33

40.45

*Ravindra Jadeja

43

687

32.71

44

36.04

 

*Stats taken at the end of the fifth ODI against England at Eden Gardens, Kolkata

 

The fact that even after winning the World Cup, India is ranked fourth – it will move to third after the England series win – is a reflection of its inconsistency, especially while playing overseas. If India has to be a force to reckon with for a long period of time, then they need to unearth quality bowling all-rounders – preferably pacers. There is a need to promote the emerging cricketers tournaments and U-19 tourneys and ear mark potential players and groom them for future. The exposure in these tournament means when they finally make the team, they wouldn’t find it alien and thereby deliver at the highest stage. Till then, India will have to wait for the next Kapil Dev to burst into the scene.

 

(Dileep.V is a Scouser fan, Sports freak, Movie buff, Laggard Quizzer and dreams of setting foot on Anfield one day)