Ravindra Jadeja can do everything on a cricket field. When the Indian team was under the pump in the second innings of the first Test, the left-hander turned the game on its head with three catches and a wicket. Later, he came out and produced a 26 off 21 balls cameo at No 8 to run New Zealand close.
Still, his usefulness to the team is in doubt. The dilemma for the Indian team management is that Jadeja is a three-dimensional player, but a one-dimensional bowler. An outstanding fielder, who is developing into an effective lower-order batsman, yet, he is not a complete package.
The primary reason for him being in the playing 11 is his bowling, and he is been found wanting in that role in New Zealand. Had Jadeja carried out his main role effectively, chances are the outcome of the series could have been different. The left-arm spinner bowled 52 overs for a return of just one wicket.
Spin is MS Dhoni’s strength at home, but a weakness abroad. It was the same story in South Africa. There R Ashwin was found wanting when India needed a breakthrough in the first innings. On the fifth day’s wicket, the off-spinner went wicketless in 36 overs with disastrous consequences. Despite the cushion of 457 runs, India failed to finish off the Proteas on the final day. The pacers got the first four wickets, but the breakthrough for the fifth wicket, that is expected from the lead spinner, never came as AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis put together a 205-run partnership.
“More than anything, it’s the lack of a quality spinner that has cost India these two series,” said former India wicketkeeper and chief selector, Kiran More. “In the second innings, on the fourth and fifth day, a spinner should be able to provide the breakthroughs. Jadeja has been disappointing in this regard,” observed More.
Dhoni’s problem is compounded by the fact that he doesn’t have the part-time operators. Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag were handy spinners. In the famous win at Adelaide in 2003, Tendulkar had backed pacer Ajit Agarkar’s six-wicket heroics with the prized scalps of Damien Martyn and Steve Waugh. Last time, India won the Test series in New Zealand, in 2009, it was Harbhajan Singh who took a match-winning spell of 6/63 in the first Test.
Former left-arm spinner Maninder Singh blamed the lacklustre show of the spinners on their defensive approach demanded by their skipper. “I am not surprised (Jadeja failed), he has limitations. He was not bowling to get wickets,” said Maninder.