Jadeja provided the consistency at The Oval which an injured Ashwin couldn't at Southampton
India were handicapped by the injury to off-spinner Ravi Ashwin in the fouth Test against England at Southampton and that cost them the series.
On a pitch conducive to spinners and where England’s Moeen Ali scalped nine on the Test, Ashwin struggled to land the ball in the same area consistently as he struggled with a hip injury he carried from the third Test. Why the Indian team decided to pick an unfit Ashwin in a decider is a pertinent question but the fact is Ashwin aggravated his injury and India lost the Test by 60 runs and with it the Pataudi Trophy.
It was believed left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja would have been a better option as on wickets that offer sharp turn, he is a lot more lethal than regular off-spinners as he has a strong action and can get the ball to zip off the surface.
That belief was proven to be true in the fifth and final Test at The Oval as Jadeja showed the management what could have been. In the first innings, Jadeja kept a tight line and got the ball to turn appreciably at times to pick up four wickets from 30 overs while giving away just 79 runs. For comparison, Ashwin took one wicket from 37 overs in Southampton while giving away 84 runs on a pitch that was borderline minefield.
Then with India down and almost out in their first innings in London, Jadeja rose to the occasion and in the company of debutant Hanuma Vihari (56) dug India out of a hole and took them from 160-6 to 292 with an unbeaten 86.
His six down the ground off James Anderson with the second new ball was a sight to behold and spoke as much about his intent as it did about his ability.
Ravindra Jadeja (l) and Ravichandran Ashwin.
Jadeja offers a strong bowling action, consistency in line and length, world-class fielding skills and quick runs down the order. Ashwin, as good as he is, does not exude consistency. He has chopped and changed his action, switched to leg-spin bowling, and has failed to remain fit during what should have been the defining series of his career.
Moving forward, India should look to give Jadeja the first crack when it comes to away Tests. There will generally be just one spot for spinner, especially when India tour Australia later in the year, and the character that Jadeja has show in London this week will be a lot more valuable than the uncertainty that surrounds Ashwin’s brilliance.
What also works in Jadeja’s favour is he is fitter than Ashwin and can be trusted to play the holding role. All these factors should put the left-arm tweaker ahead of Ashwin in the pecking order for away Tests.