Will Irfan Pathan or Ravi Ashwin push Ravindra Jadeja off the No 7 slot?

Irfan Pathan (left), Ravichandran Ashwin (centre) and Ravindra Jadeja © Getty Images

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Umesh Yadav, Virat Kohli and Vinay Kumar have been India’s biggest plus points in an otherwise forgettable tour. With the seniors’ conundrum and the rumoured Mahendra Singh Dhoni-Virender Sehwag spat hogging the headlines, it is understandable that these positives have been overlooked as contentious issues have come to the fore.

 

India had their moments during the tri-series but failed to capitalise on their opportunities. These were sporadic successes in between huge troughs. The limited-overs leg of the tour began with a sterling Ravindra Jadeja show that resulted in the world heaping praises on him. His electric fielding became the talk of the town and the balance he provided the side with his all-round ability was seen as huge strength for India. However, apart from a good responsible innings against Sri Lanka at Perth, Jadeja has failed to do anything of note with the bat and has been a complete failure with the ball.

 

The burning question is: Where does that leave Jadeja in the pecking order? In the presence of the better performers such as Ravichandran Ashwin and Irfan Pathan, is Jadeja’s place in the side under threat?

 

Since his return to the Indian team during the tour of England, Jadeja looked a more confident player, completely assured of his ability. His batting improved several notches which justified his selection as an all-rounder. It is only during the ongoing tri-series that he has been found wanting with failures in both departments. Keeping these arguments in perspective, it would be too harsh to drop him from the team. The youngster needs to be backed so that he doesn’t lose his confidence. This series may just be a blip and he may regain his touch in friendlier conditions during the Asia Cup.

 

However, Ashwin and Pathan’s performances may just edge out Jadeja from the eleven. If one is to mark the three on a scale then Jadeja has been poor, Ashwin can be rated as fair with Pathan the clear winner. The Baroda all-rounder may not have set the world alight, but has been pretty stable. His batting has been inspiring and his bowling seems to be getting back to top gear. On the other hand, Ashwin has looked comfortable with the bat even as some of the frontline Indian batsmen struggled. His bowling has been good against Sri Lanka; the overall series stats being spoilt by his outings against Australia.

 

One of the commentators mentioned the other day that for some reason Pathan looks more confident with the bat than the ball. One mustn’t forget that he burst onto the scene as a promising swing bowler. Batting was always a bonus and any contribution was always welcome. However, when he was asked to divide his energies between the two departments, his bowling just floundered and went terribly off-track.

 

With his encouraging performances with the bat in the tri-series, Pathan may have put his hand up for the all-rounder’s slot at No 7, but history tells us that it may not be a very good idea. A comeback that seems promising may get into that unwanted rut yet again. A promotion may be on the cards, but not at this juncture. He has to re-establish himself in the eleven as a bowler – his primary duty, and then contemplate a proper all-round role. But happily for him, the swing is returning and his pace is picking up.

 

It’s perplexing why Ashwin hasn’t been able to perform against Australia. He has taken a liking to the Sri Lankans, who are good players of spin, but has failed to trick the Aussies. Like Pathan, his batting is always an additional luxury that provides India depth. He would be better off concentrating on his bowling and anchoring the tail, if needed.

 

Thus, Pathan seems to be the favourite to contest Jadeja for the No 7 slot. Nevertheless, that move would have its own hazards as discussed above. Axing Jadeja too wouldn’t be the best solution. His left-arm spin may be more than useful during the Asia Cup and backing him after a disappointing tour may get the best out of him.

 

(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.”)