The curious case of Ravindra Jadeja
I read the news of Ravindra Jadeja scoring another triple-century, and chuckled to myself: "Another case of a giant at home at the first-class level, and a failure at the international level." Indeed, Jadeja has been the one thing worse than a failure - he has been India's favourite scapegoat.
For as long as he was in the team, every match we lost was somehow Jadeja's fault. His bowling appeared to be toothless, and his batting frankly didn't have enough power to clear the ropes - a pre-requisite for somebody coming in at No. 7. His batting is in the Mohammad Kaif mould - someone who can nudge the ball around, but someone who would not clear the ropes too often due to a limited technique.
And yet, despite all his shortcomings, his numbers reveal something different, and indicate that the Indian selectors may have missed a trick in handling his career. His profile tells me that even at List A level, he fails the basic pre-requisite for an allrounder - his batting average (28.96) is lower than his bowling average (30.85). On the other hand, consider his first-class statistics - a batting average of 53.12, with seven centuries (out of which a scarcely believable three were triples), and a bowling average of 27.49 with 10 five-wicket hauls.
Is it possible that the selectors pigeon-holed Jadeja as a bits-and-pieces limited-overs player, while his actual worth would be more in the longer format? His batting is certainly more suited to a No. 8 slot in the longer format, where he is under no pressure to go over the infield. His technique is limited, but that never stopped Dhoni. More importantly, he offers a decent spin option, especially in India. On unresponsive tracks, he can hold up one end, and on spinning tracks, he can be a wicket-taking bowler, as his first-class bowling average attests to.
Time will tell if Jadeja deserves a promotion in the batting order above Dhoni, and perhaps No. 6 might be too high for him, as it is for Dhoni. But as his first-class statistics attest to, Jadeja definitely deserves a shot at the highest level. I can scarcely believe I am writing these words. Give India's favourite scapegoat a chance. He might just take it.