Asia Cup 2022: Ravindra Jadeja ruled out due to right knee injury, Axar Patel recalled as replacement. Will India's balance impact in Ravindra Jadeja's absence in T20Is?
Cricket, a game which is played with the help of 11 players on each side is quite quick to change sides in the absence of even one of these 11. That’s the beauty of the game. The so-called "team game" is now more than ever reliant on individual brilliance to win games. While one individual can certainly not help any team win games single-handedly, they will ensure the balance of the squad. The correct equilibrium, the perfect flavour and the right taste for the opponents. One such player in India is Ravindra Jadeja.
India’s star batting all-rounder was ruled out of Asia Cup 2022 midway and is likely to miss even the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia with a major knee injury. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is yet to provide concrete confirmation of the injury, but it is believed that Ravindra Jadeja injured his knee during the India-Hong Kong match. The BCCI was quick to announce an apple-to-apple replacement for Jadeja with Axar Patel.
How does Jadeja’s absence affect the balance of the T20I squad?
Ravindra Jadeja has been one player whose batting abilities have drastically improved in the last three to four years. Jadeja used to average under 19 in T20 cricket (18.67 being his best) till 2017, with averages of 9, 4.5, 5.01 and 6.33 in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016, respectively. However, since 2017 Jadeja’s resurgence has been tremendous. Jadeja’s batting powers have helped India find a floater in his name who can be a dependable contributor with the bat and who can shift gears at will and can even stabilise the innings at the crucial number four position, much like in the game against Pakistan in Asia Cup, where he scored a fighting 35 off just 29 deliveries and built two important partnerships with Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya.
The all-rounder also plays an important role in providing the right tinge of balance to the squad with KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, most likely to be India’s top 3. India lack a left-handed batter in the top five or six with Suryakumar, Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik in the scheme of things. Jadeja, being a left-hander, was used to capitalise on the left-right combination, which forced the opposition captain and the bowler to keep changing the field placements and the bowling plans. Jadeja’s absence could mean Rishabh Pant, who doesn’t have a great T20 international record with an average of just 23.86 with a very below-par strike rate of 126.32 in 48 innings, walks into the playing eleven.
This further disrupts India's balance as Dinesh Karthik, whom India is looking to as the messiah to finish games, and whose sole role in the squad for the past six months has been that of a finisher, goes for a toss. With just one left-hander in the starting eight, it will only mean the opposition can target India’s batting with leggies and left-arm bowlers, which India already have a weakness against.
Will Axar Patel be able to fit into Jadeja’s shoes?
Now the question that ignites among the Indian fans and amid India’s preparation for the world cup is whether Axar Patel is really a like-to-like replacement for Ravindra Jadeja. Or are we just wearing a thicker sock to fit a loose number eight shoe into a number seven foot? On one hand, we have Ravindra Jadeja, a 33-year-old veteran with 64 T20 international matches under his belt, and on the other, we have Axar Patel, a 28-year-old rookie with experience of 25 T20I matches. While Jadeja has a batting strike rate of just 124.52, Patel strikes at 137.38 with the bat. While neither all-rounder has scored an international fifty, both don't have an exceptional batting average, with Jadeja averaging 24.05 and Axar averaging 18.38 in the 17 or so innings Patel has batted for India.
In the bowling department too, there isn’t much that differentiates both of them. They are both accurate; they bowl stump to stump and their bowling average and economy reciprocate the same. Jadeja averages 28.49 with the ball with an economy rate of 7.05. Jadeja has taken 12.88 per cent of the team’s total wickets in every match, having taken three wickets 3 times in his T20I career. Axar more or less has similar numbers with an average of 27.19, an economy of 7.34, and has taken three wickets in an innings 3 times, much like Jadeja.
Apart from both being left-hand batters and left-arm orthodox bowlers with almost identical numbers, they both hail from Gujarat. The Gujarati all-rounders are both tremendous fielders, but on any given day, a team would want Jadeja’s fielding and that rocket of an arm in their squad. While Jadeja and Patel both have a miniscule difference in batting average and strike rate, the former will walk into any playing eleven and not just India's without a second thought on the grounds of his reliable batting and fielding abilities.
All the new permutations and combinations are now coming into the picture just due to the absence of one individual player in this team game of 11 players. Yes, that’s the irony of this game and the lack of depth of sheer all-rounders in India’s squad. It will be interesting to see how India approaches this situation with just two guaranteed matches at the Asia Cup 2022 and two bilateral three-match series against Australia and South Africa, respectively, leading up to the T20 World Cup 2022.