August 9, 2013

Send Jadeja in higher

India will be best served in Test cricket if their two allrounders bat either side of Dhoni

Zimbabwe's series against India was, I'm afraid, a cry for help. Zimbabwe have been feisty in the past but now you pity them. Their cricketers have been, figuratively, beaten and bruised; they have been denied amenities, and now self-respect. Much like the land, its cricket has been abused, and even though many fine players and proud cricketers have emerged from there, they no longer will because a fight without resources can only accomplish so much. Sadly, by the time they take the field, they no longer possess the weapons to compete. It needn't have been like this and Zimbabwe cricket is an illustration of worries deeper than the DRS in our game.

And so as a cricketing contest, Zimbabwe v India was forgettable. At times like these you look beyond the scorecard, and I found myself following Virat Kohli - not so much his batting as his audition for captaincy. Having said that, a word on his batting.

When players drop a level below the one they should really be playing at, they must look invincible, they must look they belong elsewhere. Kohli did, and until he recused himself from the batting order, it had seemed an unequal contest, and in a peculiar way therefore, his reputation actually grew.

I liked the fact that he opted not to bat in the last two games. There was talk about a few records down the road, about becoming the fastest to get to a landmark, and while those are good and praiseworthy, India were in Zimbabwe for another reason. I liked, too, that batsmen who were picked were given a number that did them some justice.

Far too often players are picked, get an appearance against their name but not the opportunity they seek. Here, Ambati Rayudu, so long in the wilderness and a talent in danger of being enveloped by rust, was sent in at No. 4. It could easily have been Dinesh Karthik or Suresh Raina, but Kohli, or maybe Duncan Fletcher, realised they needed to do justice to the man picked. It was a generous move.

In the course of time Raina got to bat at No. 3, Cheteshwar Pujara opened the batting, Ajinkya Rahane got his preferred position, and I particularly liked the fact that Ravindra Jadeja batted at No. 4 in the last game.

These have been a wonderful few months for the young spinner, even if they were preceded by much armchair ridicule. Jadeja is now No. 1 on the ODI rankings for bowlers, and his challenge will lie in staying among the top three, but his future is not as a bowling allrounder, not as someone coming in and slogging at the end. Jadeja made it to the Indian team on the strength of the runs he made, and he is far too exciting a batting talent to be lost in the batting order, living somewhere in the suburbs. Sending him at No. 4 was an acknowledgement that he is a batsman too, and he justified it by finishing the game. It might seem like a small event but it tells a story.

In fact, India's future - more in Test cricket, really - will be best served by Jadeja, the batting allrounder, and R Ashwin, the bowling allrounder, batting either side of MS Dhoni (in fact, I really do hope Ashwin seeks to bat at No. 6 or 7 himself). It will allow India to play five bowlers consistently, and in an era where pitches are getting slower and drier, having two spinners who can bat will be a luxury that few teams have.

Indeed, while Jadeja already bats at No. 4 for Saurashtra, I have no doubt that Ashwin must be in the top six for Tamil Nadu. There is an old theory proved right ever so often. Players tend to bat in a manner that the batting number dictates. If you push a batsman to No. 8 or 9, he will start batting like a No. 8 or 9. Conversely, move a player up the order and he starts building an innings and leaving balls that he might have fancied a swish at.

So Jadeja at four was another tick for Kohli the captain. As indeed was his explanation for not playing Parvez Rasool. There were many of us who thought it might be a good idea to give the young man a chance, but Kohli's suggestion that those on the bench for a long time must play longer has merit. Amit Mishra had to play all five, and if Jadeja had to bat too, there wasn't room for Rasool. Now he must use the opportunity in South Africa and that is what good players do: not sulk about missing out but get excited by what lies ahead.

Over the next month, while the top stars get the break they so need (and one they must enjoy because there isn't another in sight till June 2015!), the best young talent is playing for India A, both in South Africa and in India. That is how it must be. On the field, Indian cricket is looking okay for now. Off the field, well, not quite.

Harsha Bhogle is a television presenter, writer, and a commentator on IPL and other cricket. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Srinivas on August 14, 2013, 2:30 GMT

    Harsha, For tests, the need is to mix experience with balance and variety. India will want Jadeja to serve 3 purposes - score runs and have an average of 40 + and be able to play the second new ball along with contain the batsmen and take wickets in the 3 or 4 innings. in many places, an extra bat might be better. indias test - gambhir,dhawan,pujara,sachin, kohli, sehwag/jadeja/rohit, dhoni ashwin, bhuvi, zaheer/ishant, yadav. after sachin retires - gambhir, dhawan, pujara, sehwag, kohli, dhoni, jadeja, ashwin,bhuvi, zaheer/ishant, yadav. India's long quest for a bowling allrounder or a batsman who can bowl some good seamers will lead to jaddu making way. india wants a No.6 like Matthews or Watson. Jaddu will have to prove his batting in tests if he is to be taken seriously outside India. In Indian conditions, his utility is particularly valuable.

  • Jay on August 13, 2013, 0:38 GMT

    Harsha - Bowling is India's Achilles' Heel in Tests. Talk to "Send Jadeja in higher" to bat is premature. He's played just 5 Tests so far, all at home, in which he's done better as a bowler (27 wkts @ 19.85) than as batsman (97 runs @ 19.40). Comparatively he's made a significant mark in 80 ODIs over 4 years - reaching the No 1 rank in ODI bowling. For sure he's turned out to be, with his superb fielding, an excellent all-rounder - notably a bowling all-rounder! Tests are so much different from ODIs. Team India's undergone a tough transformation: It is settling down, with a bonafide Test batting order for the top 6 spots - with the likes of Dhawan, Pujara, Vijay, Rahane, along with Kohli, Dhoni & Tendulkar, & possibly Rohit Sharma & Gambhir in the mix. So why tamper with it? India's top priority: build a solid 5-bowler squad capable of taking 20 wickets in a match. As a relative Test newcomer at age 24, Jadeja's first got to prove himself overseas - in SA. So why push him, Harsha?

  • Dummy4 on August 11, 2013, 12:22 GMT

    india not have 2 all-rounders at test level. in fact 3- with b kumar. he made few hundereds at FC cricket. time to have an extra bowler in the side.

  • uma on August 11, 2013, 7:45 GMT

    its time to rely more on bowlers. playing with 7-4 batting-bowling combination is not good. especially in tests. 6-5 is better. specialist batsman at 7 is almost useless. 7th batsman rarely gets a chance and becomes less in confident. playing 4 bowlers would cause unnecessary leak of runs. say for example mohammd kaif made only one or two significant performances with bat and played quite a few matches. 7-4 works only if u have hitters in line up and four front line bowlers who could finish the innings very early against all teams-- like old windies did.

    give more stength to bowling and fielding; which make the team balanced in all fronts. dont want india to be more batting dominant team- where bowlers leak away runs to the opposition.

  • sam on August 11, 2013, 5:38 GMT

    Oh and Yuvraj and Sehwag must never come back to the test team. Yuvraj has been a failure because of his technique and Sehwag, the great batsman is finished and so is Tendulkar. Time to look ahead. Gambhir in the middle order. Ideally the best batting line up for SA is Dhawan, Karthik, Pujara, Kohli, Rayudu / Rohit, Gambhir, Dhoni and the bowlers (preferably Umesh, Bhuvi, Ashwin and Shami/Mohit). But in Durban and Cape Town we can play Jadeja in place of Rayudu/Rohit as the ball will spin from third day.

  • sam on August 11, 2013, 4:16 GMT

    Jadeja's biggest weakness is that his game is not good enough against quality pace. Anderson proved it time and again in India and so did Siddle and company. When will people like Harsha (who have been commentating for 20+ years) realize that? Another weakness is that on pitches which doesn't assist spin bowling he will not turn a single delivery. Pitches like Wanderers, Brisbane's Gabba and WACA, Perth. He will be a liability if he is picked in those places. And Gambhir must play in the middle order in test matches for India at least away from home. He has experience, skill and is somewhat compact as a batsman.

  • murali on August 10, 2013, 17:57 GMT

    I think let him play 2 or 3 good knocks then think about changing order that would do

  • Dummy4 on August 10, 2013, 10:56 GMT

    great guys great to see u the love and passion about cricket so i also join your discussion my view is this very simple any how play in IPL and if you can PLAY for Chennai Superkings soonly after some performence u will be selected for indian team this is true so for playingi indian team criteria is to play for CSK when IPL was started BCCI was saying IPL performence will not be counted for Indian team but what is happening rohit sharma there is quote "The first one is that he is one of the most talented young batsmen that India has produced. The second is that so far in his international career, he has been one of the most spectacular under-achievers that India has ever produced. " and lucky man dhoni never happned in indian cricket after loosing 8 back to back test matches and home lost captain is there and about jadeja against whom he has taken wicket every one knows so give chances to every one equaly and don't play politics against gambhir and yuvi man of the tournament the best

  • Varnendra on August 10, 2013, 8:52 GMT

    Ashwin plays as a spinner but doesn't really spin the ball hard; he is not a good spinner; so his batting should not be considered. Jadeja should be given some chances in SA; if he fails he, Raina, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Ghambir and Dhoni and players like them (mighty in India but Mice elsewhere) should never be selected for India again.