Ravindra Jadeja could miss World Cup; spotlight on Axar Patel

Ravindra Jadeja is all but out of the T20 World Cup, starting next month in Australia, after sustaining a knee injury which might require surgery to cure. Axar Patel is Jadeja’s replacement at the ongoing Asia Cup and could well be on board the flight to Australia in October. “We are taking a second opinion. It’s (Jadeja’s injury) not looking good at the moment and there are chances of him missing the T20 World Cup,” a top BCCI official told The Sunday Express on Saturday.

Jadeja played the first two matches at the Asia Cup, against Pakistan and Hong Kong. He apparently sustained the injury during the Hong Kong game, although the BCCI press release didn’t specifically mention it. It just said: “Ravindra Jadeja has sustained a right knee injury and is ruled out of the tournament. He is currently under the supervision of the BCCI medical team.” In case of surgery, Jadeja could be out of the Indian team for an indefinite period.

Axar was one of the stand-bys, who has been drafted in as a replacement. Meanwhile, Jadeja would check in at the National Cricket Academy, where the medical team would assess him before deciding the future course of action. Jadeja’s absence could be a big blow to India’s chances at the World Cup, for he is a genuine spin-bowling all-rounder who provides the required balance to the side.

As is his wont, Rahul Dravid, though remained non-committal about the left-arm spinner’s availability at the World Cup. “I don’t want to rule Jadeja out of the World Cup yet. Let’s see how he goes in the six-eight weeks going into the T20 World Cup. It’s part of every sportsperson’s life,” the Indian team head coach said at the pre-match press conference today. India would face Pakistan in a Super Four fixture on Sunday.

On the face of it, Axar carries a similar profile to Jadeja. In terms of ability and experience, however, the latter is irreplaceable. Axar is a pretty decent left-arm spinner and a useful batsman lower down the order, but Jadeja is a world-class operator who even on a bad day with the bat and ball, will save 15 runs in the field. The 33-year-old is actually one of the undroppables in the team and without him, the team management will have to make do.

India’s Asia Cup opener against Pakistan was a case in point as to how Jadeja had allowed the side to be flexible. India had left out Rishabh Pant and chose Dinesh Karthik. To balance out an overdose of right-handers in the top order, Jadeja was sent in at No. 4, with India under pressure at 50/2 after eight overs. It soon became 53/3 and then 89/4, when Suryakumar Yadav departed. Jadeja had to take the game deep, which he did, along with Hardik Pandya, scoring 35 off 29 balls and putting on 52 runs for the fifth wicket. When he got out in the final over, victory was in sight.

His batting performance came on the heels of his 0/11 in two overs. Against Hong Kong, he returned with 1/15 from four overs in India’s 40-run win.

Stats say, in 64 T20Is so far, Jadeja has scored 457 runs and taken 51 wickets. Stats, though, do not capture his improvement as a cricketer over the last two-three years. He can get into the Test side solely as a batsman, such is his improvement. A superb 104 against England at Edgbaston in July, in testing conditions and under huge pressure, was his latest offering in the longer format.

Axar has always been Jadeja’s back-up, but the 28-year-old has lived up to the challenge whenever he was called into action. The four home-Test series against England in 2021 was Axar’s crowning glory.

With Jadeja out injured, he turned up to claim 27 scalps in three Tests. More recently, in the ODI series in the West Indies, his 64 not out off 35 balls in the second game at Port of Spain saw India snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, chasing 311.

Axar is a limited-overs thoroughbred, with 25 T20Is under his belt so far. The World Cup, though, is a different ball game, where India would covet Jadeja’s class.

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