India v West Indies, 1st Test, Kolkata November 5, 2013

India in dilemma over Jadeja replacement


India are left gaping at a Ravindra Jadeja-sized hole after a shoulder strain ruled the allrounder out of the two-Test series against West Indies. The race to that spot - possibly a No. 6 batsman or a fifth bowler - is a three-way tie between Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and the extra bowler, which is likely to be Amit Mishra. MS Dhoni said on the eve of the match that the absence of Jadeja leaves them struggling to restore the balance of the Test XI, which won 4-0 against Australia earlier this year.

Jadeja was a specialist bowler on Indian pitches, and his batting ability down the order gave Dhoni the confidence to move up to No. 6. Now the team management has a dilemma. "The thing is, whether we want to go with four bowlers, or if we want that fifth one," Dhoni said. "Or do we want someone who can bowl a bit if needed? That is one major decision. The decision is one, but it is divided into three different aspects.

"If we go with five bowlers, both of them [Rohit and Rahane] may not play. If we say we need someone who can bowl a bit of offspin, Rohit plays. If we say we go with four specialist bowlers, and if needed we will look for someone else, Ajinkya will play. You'll have to wait and watch."

All this more or less reduces Rahane's chances in the tiebreaker. If India do decide to go with just the four specialist bowlers, you suspect Rohit's part-time offspin will earn him a Test debut. Not only that, his form in the recently concluded ODI series against Australia - where he scored a double-century, broke the record for most runs in a bilateral series and was the Man of the Series - should give him a lead over Mumbai team-mate Rahane.

Rohit already holds the record for having played the most ODIs without making Test debut. He was primed for that debut in 2009-10, but injured himself in the warm-up, minutes before the toss in Nagpur. Because India didn't have any back-up batsmen in that lopsided squad, wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha played that match as a specialist batsman.

Mishra, who last played a Test more than two years ago, is an outside chance to play as the third spinner. Not quite Jadeja with the bat, Mishra did score an 84 at The Oval and a double-century on a flat pitch in the Ranji Trophy last year. How Dhoni wishes he had Jadeja, though. Not least because Jadeja's accuracy gives him more control than Mishra will. Jadeja's quicker pace also gives him an edge over Mishra. And then there is the balance Jadeja provides.

"It has been a bit of a concern, and I've always said that," Dhoni said. "I have always said that we need a seam bowler who can bat a bit, or a frontline spinner who can bat. At times, you don't realise the importance of a particular player. People criticise individuals, but it's important to see what kind of impact he has when he's part of the team.

"Now that we don't have Jadeja, we're all thinking whether we should have that fifth bowler, or another spinner who can bat a bit or is it that the batting will become too thin. We will have to find someone. Jadeja is someone who can do that job, but it's good to have a Plan B or a Plan C. As of now we don't have too many who can do the job."

The other decision to be taken is which pace bowler will join Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the line-up. The team management might not be sure about Umesh Yadav, who has not played much top-flight cricket since his injury. Ishant Sharma has been going through a prolonged rough phase - he has an average of 60 since he last took more than three wickets in an innings, more than two years ago. That means you can't rule out a debut for the local man, Mohammed Shami.

"He is part of the Test side, so he is ready for Test cricket," Dhoni said when asked specifically if he felt Shami was ready. "He's shaping up really well. If you see the ODI performances, he has given us those breakthroughs with the new ball, which I feel with the rule changes is very important. He's also someone who bowls at a good pace and who's able to bowl good yorkers. Overall he looks very good, and we want to keep working with him so that he can improve his fitness further. [So] when he comes into Test cricket, he'll able to bowl those long spells, and he can come back and bowl at the same pace in the second or third spell."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Al on November 6, 2013, 18:17 GMT

    Agrre with @Arvi02 - Ishant Sharma, Murli Vijay, Jadeja and Ashwin are not Good enough too sustain at higher level. I confirm 100% this people will fail on SF tour. Its Better to Groom likes of Baba Aparjith (Better Than Jadeja) , Rassool ( Better than Ashwin) , Ishwar Pandey (Anytime better than Ishant) , Rayudu and Rahane are 1000 times Better than Murali Vijay.

  • Android on November 6, 2013, 11:42 GMT

    @VVSR92. great observation. It will interesting to see if Jadeja plays in South Africa. He is being given time to recover for the South Africa series. I would still play him given his batting ability. Assuming he retains his place in the side I would bring in a Abhishek Nayyar who is a good alrounder for South African conditions. Hopefully he will do well in the domestic scene to make his case. Rohit Sharma is simply too talented to be left out. He is in good form and has earned his place. Its too bad for Ajinkya Rahane who is also a fantastic batsman but he will have to hope Rohit Sharma ør Murli Vijay fail.

  • Android on November 6, 2013, 11:30 GMT

    @TheOnlyEmperor. Well said. I am a huge fan of Jadeja from day 1, even though I used to be ridiculed for it. The guy can bat, bowl and field at a well above average level. He is an utility player which every Captain would want in his side. I say this even though Test cricket is considered a specialists arena. Stump to stump bowling is underrated.

  • Kannan on November 6, 2013, 6:46 GMT

    In a Test match day of 90 overs, a spinner bowls about 25 overs and a fast bowler usually bowls about 15 overs. In English wickets, you need to have 3 regular swing bowlers who can take wickets. In Indian wickets, 3 good spinners suffice to bundle out a side. The English have a good balance of quality pace and spin bowlers and that's one reason they are performing well in Tests. India needs to have Aswin, Ojha and Jadeja as the 3 spinners and the 2 pacemen in Bhuv Kumar and Shami. Bhuvi is priceless because he can swing, while Shami can at least bowl yorkers at a 140+ pace. Ishant should be given a sabbatical, to go and improve on his yorker length bowling as also all the other so called pacemen. The idea Indian Test 11 is : Rohit, Shikar, Pujara, Kohli, Raina, Dhoni, Jadeja, Ashwin, Bhuvi, Shami and Ojha. Raina is an asset on the field, brings positivity and energy and can bat and bowl. Is respected, a team man, mature and shows very little bad attitude. Priceless!

  • Kannan on November 6, 2013, 6:34 GMT

    Jadeja bowls wicket to wicket. In fact he is the only Indian bowler who does that. When a bowler bowls wicket to wicket, he opens up the possibility of taking a person clean bowled and lbw, a possibility that is foolishly killed by those who don't have stump-to-stump discipline. A batsman will always be alert, watchful and cautious facing a bowler who bowls to the wicket and will not take any liberties. If he does, he does that, at his own risk, something which is to the benefit of the bowler for obvious reasons already mentioned. Is there any surprise therefore that Jadeja is amongst wickets whilst others struggle?

  • sam on November 6, 2013, 2:56 GMT

    Jadeja's accuracy and relatively quicker pace (for a spinner) makes him almost unplayable on square turners but on flat pitches he is not all that good. Doesn't either flight or guile.

  • karthik on November 6, 2013, 2:33 GMT

    Its a simple choice really.Play both Rohit & Rahane and dump useless Vijay who got completely exposed in Eng..R & R are the real deal since they've proved their mettle abroad and in far tougher conditions.And any sane person with brains between the ears thinks Rohit at this stage of his career isn't ready for tests,they should be queuing up at a mental correction facility.Dhawan Rohit Pujara Kohli Rahane SRT Dhoni make up the 1st 7 and then the bowlers.

  • Vishwaksena on November 6, 2013, 2:10 GMT

    Jadeja is likely to play more in sub-continent rather than overseas. If he needed rest he should have been rested in odi seris vs aus & should have been playing these tests. In case he picked up a niggle midway through seris he should have been rested straight away with test seris coming up. Anyway now no jadeja means it is an oppurtunity for some one to score big and secure their place for sa tour. I guess both rahane and rohit would feature in SA due to tendulkar's retirement, unless Ind play jadeja vs SA in seaming conditions.

  • Dummy4 on November 6, 2013, 1:48 GMT

    When ever Rahane is in line for game something or the other pops up. He is Mr.Unlucky when it comes to selection in Indian Cricket . Looks like its Rohit Sharma's debut tomorrow. We need one Sharma in team!! Ishant is out, so here is Rohit LOL!! May be Rahane will get his opportunity after Sachin's retirement.

  • Dummy4 on November 6, 2013, 1:19 GMT

    I would pick mishra as the replacement. As a batsman he looks very solid. That 84 was an innings any top order would be proud of. Regarding bowling, well India has to be aggressive. U already have ojha who can bowl consistently in the right place. Pick mishra as an attacking option.