Former Indian batsman Anshuman Gaekwad wants Ravindra Jadeja to play the World Test Championship final against New Zealand in Southampton at all cost. The spin-bowling all-rounder might have to fight for a place in the XI with R Ashwin if India decide to go with four fast bowlers in the all-important finale, starting on Friday (June 17).
Going under the radar, Jadeja’s batting average in away Tests in the WTC cycle has been higher than Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara. Though it is not a fair representation of the latter’s ability given the position they bat in, it is a rational argument exemplifying Jadeja’s improvement. With the ball, the comparison is much more direct. In away Tests in the WTC cycle, Jadeja has taken as many wickets as Ashwin: 15, but at a lower average.
"Jadeja shouldn't be left out at any cost. And why should he? He is such a huge asset to the team in all three departments. He is a triple-plus. And I don't think that if three bowlers cannot do damage in English conditions, a fourth pacer won't help. Three is good enough," Gaekwad told Hindustan Times.
"And you need a spinner. Ashwin is a class spinner alright but with Jadeja in the team, he has to play. How many international teams have got quality left-arm spinners? And here you have one, not only as a spinner but as a proven batsman and a brilliant fielder. What else do you want?"
New Zealand played two Tests against England and defeated them 1-0 prior to the final. Meanwhile, India will head into the final on the back of no match practice. "India should have had some match practice like New Zealand. They've already played two Test matches so they are well-versed with conditions," said Gaekwad.
"That's an advantage they surely would carry. But at the same time, I won't cut out India's chances because they have played in England earlier and players know the conditions. But ultimately, knowing conditions isn't everything. They have played enough cricket in England.
"I still feel India's recent record and attitude – the way they have won matches without main players in Australia and against England in India. They are high on confidence but hope it doesn't turn into overconfidence. I personally feel the first two days of the WTC final are going to be very vital."
Gaekwad said India have a balanced squad and also heaped heavy praise on Rohit Sharma, Kohli and Pujara. "It's a really balanced squad with a lot of options to pick and play in the XI. I think this is the best era of Indian cricket. Virat and Ravi Shastri are lucky that they have so many options – batting, bowling, all-rounders, wicketkeepers. All are equally good.
"Rohit is different class. There's no question about him playing one match or 10. Once he gets going, he can murder any bowler. With his technique, the kind of shots and their selection, he has got plenty of time to play, which not many batsmen do. That's a huge advantage.
"I would put Kohli in a similar class as Rohit. Anyone who feels that he will not get runs or score slowly or will not get centuries, all this is nonsense. I'm sure with his batting prowess, he just needs a little bit of push.
"To be very frank, everybody cannot be Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma. With Pujara staying at the wicket, how many times has he converted small starts into big partnerships that helped India win matches? You need someone like him who's going to frustrate the bowlers."