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With 49 scalps in 29 games,Ravindra Jadeja does the star turn

He has picked up more wickets during last 11 months than he did during last 3 years put together.

Written by Devendra Pandey | Visakhapatnam |
November 23, 2013 2:05:49 am

Four wickets at 97.50 apiece in 10 ODIs,a wicket every 18 overs,and an economy rate of 5.44 per over. Clearly not numbers that make great reading for any bowler. It’s unlikely that Ravindra Jadeja will look back at 2012 very fondly,at least in terms of his bowling exploits in the ODI arena.

As we rolled into 2013,few would have imagined the all-rounder from Saurashtra transforming in to a regular member of Team India,forget becoming a key member,before the year-end.

But on Thursday while Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co capped off yet another successful run-chase in the most nonchalant of fashions,Jadeja quietly went past a significant milestone at Kochi’s Nehru Stadium. For,when he had Darren Sammy caught at long-on,the left-arm spinner had just accounted for his 49th scalp of the year,taking him past Saeed Ajmal to become the highest wicket-taker in ODIs this year. Those wickets coming in 29 matches and at an average of 22.22 with the economy rate a stupendous 4.19 — a far-cry from the horrors of 2012 — which is the third-best this season.

In fact,Jadeja has picked up more wickets during the last 11 months than he did during the last three years put together. His three-wicket haul against the hapless West Indians in the first ODI was the seventh occasion in 2013 that he had taken three or more wickets.

He’s also been in many ways skipper Dhoni’s go-to man during a year where the world champions have recorded 21 wins and just lost on seven occasions. Probably to the extent where he’s overtaken R Ashwin,who has 35 wickets at 31.48 this year,as the team’s premier spinner in ODI cricket.

Uncomplicated art

Jadeja’s done so without ever coming across as a serious threat. Renowned for his flashy disposition otherwise,his bowling style is the complete opposite. A run-of-the-mill bowling action,a limited array of variations and a reliance on his ability to literally bore the batsmen into errors. Of course,mixed with subtle changes of pace and trajectory.

What Jadeja has provided for India this year is a potent mix of stalling the run-flow as well as nicking out crucial wickets when most required. Only on eight out of 29 innings has he gone at over five-runs-an-over-three of those coming during the run-fest against Australia last month. He’s bowled his full quota of overs in 18 out of those matches and delivered 21 maidens. Crucially,he’s gone wicket-less in only five occasions.

Even while the rest of the bowlers were running for cover during the bat-dominated ODI series against Australia,Jadeja’s figures averaged a respectable 41.87 for his eight wickets while his economy rate of 5.58 was nothing short of sensational. As the year has progressed,he’s also won Dhoni’s trust significantly. While he has mostly been brought on right after the first mandatory 10-over powerplay,his captain hasn’t been shy of bringing him in during the batting powerplay or even during the death overs.

Against Australia,Dhoni repeatedly went to Jadeja while his seamers and even Ashwin were being plundered for plenty. More often than not,Jadeja delivered,even earning himself a tongue-in-cheek knighthood from his skipper.

He’s also bowled ahead of Ashwin,in a bid to choke up the batsmen post the frenzy of the first 10 overs. Such has been his control that Dhoni hasn’t minded using him against the left-handers either-even though 40 off his wickets have been right-handers. Virat Kohli who stood in as skipper during India’s brief visit to Zimbabwe had insisted that when Jadeja was brought on,things generally happened. And they certainly have for the talented all-rounder in 2013.

Tougher challenges lie ahead with India set to play a lot of ODI cricket in foreign climes and on pitches which might not suit Jadeja’s style. But like he proved in England during the Champions Trophy,he is good enough to make an impression in all conditions. And as India look towards the retaining of their crown Down Under in some 14 months,at least the ‘vacant’ tag that has hung ominously over the all-rounder’s spot looks to have been filled sufficiently for now.

Weather,a worry

Heavy rainfall associated with cyclone Helen has put a question mark over the second ODI between India and West Indies to be played on Sunday at YSR Stadium. The met department has already issued a warning on Friday predicting heavy rain here. Both teams may not get to train on the eve of the match because of the severe weather.

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