Australia were making good progress in the fifth and final ODI against India at the Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi. Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja shared a 76-run stand and India were under the pump. Enter Ravindra Jadeja. With the third ball, he produces a flatter delivery from round the wicket and it drifts in, it straightens at length and Finch plays down the wrong line to have his off stump flattened. The delivery evoked memories of Jadeja at his peak, when he would wind down the opposition batsmen by his sheer accuracy and getting some turn to breach through their defences. Australia built yet another partnership of 99 between Khawaja and Handscomb. The left-handed Khawaja hit his second ton of the series but departed for 100 as he drove Bhuvneshwar Kumar straight to Virat Kohli at short cover.
The platform for a big total had been laid and Glenn Maxwell came to bat. Jadeja has been the best bowler on show and he lures Maxwell out with a flighted delivery. It spins away slightly and Maxwell does not get to the pitch of the ball and he miscues it to extra cover where Kohli takes the catch again. Mohammed Shami removes Peter Handscomb for 52 and Australia has lost three wickets for seven runs in the middle period. Their chances of reaching a total in excess of 300 has been dented. Jadeja ends with figures of 10-0-45-2, a job well done considering how the other spinner in the side, Kuldeep Yadav struggled.
The Feroz Shah Kotla holds happy memories for Jadeja. In the 2013 Test against the same opponents, he picked up his maiden five-wicket haul to truly establish himself as one of the core spinners in the side along with Ravichandran Ashwin. From that point, Jadeja never looked back, at least in Tests.
However, the emergence of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal sidetracked Jadeja and Ashwin from limited-overs after India’s loss in the 2017 Champions Trophy to Pakistan. With Kuldeep and Chahal doing so well, Jadeja’s place in the squad became uncertain. With Kuldeep struggling at the Kotla and Jadeja putting in a fine show, once again India’s team composition for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 comes up.
Consider this situation. Jadeja is initially not picked in the side for the series against Australia. However, Hardik Pandya is injured and Jadeja is included. In the first two games, he concedes 48 and 64 runs and has taken just one wicket. With the bat, he has not contributed. However, in the Delhi ODI, he regained his three major factors which are accuracy, economy and wickets. This was only the fourth time in the last two years that Jadeja had taken two or more wickets in ODIs.
On ICC past experience alone, Jadeja merits a place in the squad for the World Cup which will be played in England. He has ICC experience in the country. In 2013, he had the most wickets and was the best bowler in India’s victorious Champions Trophy campaign. In England, he has 27 wickets at an average of 27 which is his best anywhere outside the sub-continent. With the bat, he averages 70.
Just on the back of his numbers in England and his performance in the Delhi ODI, Jadeja merits a place in the Indian squad for the World Cup. However, with the bench strength and current squad performing well, his chances might appear distant. However, his chances have brightened.