There have been doubts over Ravindra Jadeja's spot in India's XI, with Kedar Jadhav being the preferred choice as the second allrounder behind Hardik Pandya. With Vijay Shankar, also an allrounder the likely favourite to bat at No. 4 as per the selectors, it was hard to see how Jadeja could fit in.
However, on Saturday, Jadeja added a fresh twist to the debate with a compelling performance, single-handedly sweeping past a top order collapse to top score with a 50-ball 54. More than composure, the beauty of Jadeja's batting lay in his strike rotation and how he dominated the spinners.
This will be Jadeja's second World Cup, a prospect that didn't seem likely when he spent little more than a year away before being recalled as an injury replacement for the Asia Cup in September 2018. He's a decade old in international cricket, and has enough experience. It's just that he isn't looked upon as a senior statesman like Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni or Virat Kohli. Yet, when he is in his elements, like he was on Saturday, he can be amazing.
Against New Zealand in India's first warm-up, he showed the ability to marshall the lower order. It's not often that you see Jadeja playing with such confidence. He picked the right moments, balls and bowlers to stamp his authority The key for India, after the collapse, was to take the match deep and Jadeja nearly succeeded.
As a fielder, he is inarguably the best India have. That is why he has been preferred over R Ashwin, a more skillful fingerspinner. On Saturday, Jadeja nearly ran out New Zealand captain Kane Williamson with a superb stop at backward point by intercepting a dab. Williamson gave up his dash back to the crease and was fortunate that there was no direct hit.
As a spinner, some pundits feel, Jadeja has better ability to finish his quota of 10 overs as opposed to Jadhav, who is mainly utilised as a part-time spinner, although he has been a wicket-taker with his unorthodox low-arm action. As a fielder Jadhav is getting better. As a batsman Jadhav has been lucky to bat in the middle order as opposed to Jadeja who usually bats at No. 8 , leaving him not much time or able partners on most occasions.
One reason Jadhav has scored over his competitors is because has shown he can hold his nerve and he has the street smartness to finish things when it matters. He showed that on Saturday too. All that remains to be seen is if he can do it consistently.
As a left-hander in the lower order he can be a valuable asset since India have only one-other left-hander in Shikhar Dhawan. With teams fielding at least one wrist spinner, having a left-hand batsman can negated that opposition's advantage. Jadeja attacked both Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi as soon as they were brought in.
After the match, Jadeja said the message to himself was to utilise the opportunity of batting out the remaining overs (he walked in to bat in the 20th). "I was telling myself that my shot selection should not be faulty. There was no rush," he said. "There were many over left. So I was taking my time.
"I knew that if I could play out the initial overs then it would become easy gradually. I kept my shot selection very limited in that initial phase. That proved beneficial. I played out the good overs they bowled me early on and then it became easy."
The Indian think tank have one more warm-up fixture against Bangladesh to answer the Jadeja question, and the answer could be key to their World Cup hopes.