For the last several months, every time India plays a one day match, there’s one question on everybody’s mind, whether Ravindra Jadeja is in the playing eleven or not. I must clarify that this doesn’t come from people who think he should play, which is generally the case-people worried about someone not being included in the line up. On the contrary, there are an ever growing number of people being shocked and surprised at his frequent selection and subsequent failure. As far as I remember following cricket, or at least in my generation, this kind of a response towards a player’s inclusion is unprecedented.
Indian cricket has done away with the practice of Zonal quota in team selection, so certainly his selection is not just for representation purpose. When it comes to merit, statistics don’t speak too highly of RJ either. Some think he’s in the team because of his slow bowling abilities, but a bowling average of 42+ hardly paints a flattering picture. As far as batting is concerned, his career is a typical example of missed opportunities. If he would have grabbed even half the chances that came across him, he’d have been a permanent member of the team, at least till World Cup 2011, and would have proudly filled the ever vacant all-rounder spot in the line-up.
As I write this, I am reminded that he already is a permanent feature in the Indian team. Since his debut in Feb,2009 he has already played 34 ODIs, scoring a meagre 535 runs at a more respectable average of 31.47, not too great for a number 7 batsman. So at least it’s not the statistics that makes the captain select him for every other match.
Every time India plays an ODI, I silently pray that I don’t have to see any more of him. Today (India-Sri Lanka Micromax Cup final) was one of those days. Unfortunately India lost, and for once RJ wasn’t directly responsible for it, or was he? Since he is our only all-rounder (in absence of a better term), and Dhoni decided we must have extra batting firepower, he had to make way for Rohit Sharma, who is an equally big failure-something we can probably discuss in another post altogether. But let’s stick to Jadeja for now.
We all remember Sachin’s epic 175 against Australia which was adjudged the best ODI knock of 2009, alas in a lost cause. India was well poised for a victory when Jadeja joined Sachin who was in swashbuckling form, and the batting power play was taken. The smart thing would have been to let Sachin play those overs, which would have probably brought his 200 as well, but that’s another matter. But quite inexplicably, RJ took it upon himself to play those power-play overs which brought down the scoring rate to a level that Sachin had to play the risky shot, which eventually cost him the wicket and India the match.
Jadeja along with his fellow young cricketers has mastered the art of getting out in most bizarre ways at most crucial junctures in a match. At no. 7 he could learn a lot from the way other finishers play their game and win.
A lot of people talk very highly of his bowling. He has indeed bowled some very nice spells, but match-winning? I don’t think so. He has taken wickets only as a support bowler. I am not sure whether his bowling could be credited with any Indian victory. And who would forget the 6 consecutive sixes off his bowling from the Aussies in the 20-20 world cup.
We all remember the slap gate of IPL 1, which cost Harbhajan Singh a 5 ODI matches ban. I was quite surprised that after being banned for the entire IPL 3 due to a contract breach (he was selling himself to another team while still under contract), it was business as usual for RJ when the international season started.
I personally feel that the young cricketers in India have been given too much protection, both by the BCCI and their franchisees resulting in totally unprofessional and irresponsible behaviour both off and on field. They don’t seem to put a price on their wicket or on their international careers.
Ravindra Jadeja stands for what is wrong in the way cricket is being ‘controlled’ in India by its big bosses. I think, for fans like me as players like Sachin, Dravid, Laxman and Sehwag fade into their sunsets, so will the passion and love for this great game.