Does Axar Patel deserve a call ahead of Ravindra Jadeja for India's LOI sides?
Both of them dart the ball in and rely on variation in pace more than on the assistance off the pitch, both have similar actions, bat at similar positions, speak the same language, hail from the same state, how could there not be competition between them! Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel are finished products from the same assembly line, they were crafted by similar hands, moulded in similar conditions, and hence, you have to look for who has an edge over the other, because quite frankly, that is as much either one of them has over the other.
Ravindra Jadeja is one man you can’t ignore and keep out of the scheme of things for long, if he doesn’t take wickets and score runs, he bullets in accurate throws right over the stumps to execute crucial run-outs, and probably covers more ground than any other international fielder. He was asked to sit out after some pretty lackadaisical performances for India following his shoulder injury, went back to his Ranji side Saurashtra, and went berserk, picking six consecutive 5-wickets hauls! How’s that for an answer?
But, despite his stellar fielding and excellent control on his pace-variations, neither Ravindra Jadeja nor the Indian selectors can avoid what another lad, quite similar to Jadeja is doing. Axar Patel has now, in all probability done everything asked of him. He has taken wickets (including an IPL hat-trick against Ravindra Jadeja’s Gujarat Lions and one of his scalps was Jadeja himself, holy mother of coincidence!) scored some pretty important runs both, for his IPL franchise and for India’s ODI and T20I teams in the recently concluded series against Zimbabwe. ‘Oh! Come on, Zimbabwe, really?’ you’d ask, but, remember, he didn't stroll in with his team in a comfortable position, he stepped in with his team needing quick runs, and he delivered; how often did Jadeja fail us in these circumstances?
The rise of Axar Patel during IPL 2016
A look at the statistics also shows us that despite his team’s dismal outing in the IPL, 2016, Axar Patel always rose to the fore and delivered, while Ravindra Jadeja struggled with his consistency irrespective of how well his team did. But, do we write Jadeja off so quickly?
For someone who has a knack of doing outrageous things as soon as he is told he isn’t good enough to currently represent his nation, he is like that sensitive but unruly kid, who takes it upon himself every time his teacher reprimands him, to prove that he belongs. Three triple centuries earlier after being dropped in 2012 and 6 consecutive five wickets hauls in the 2015 Ranji Season are enough to convince an uptight jury that there is far more cricket left in Ravindra Jadeja and to write him off would be as foolish as to write-off a healthy asset based on some repairs that it demands.
But, what about Axar Patel? Can, the same jury look away while he consistently demands their attention with some spectacular performances. And, while Jadeja has the knack of proving his critics wrong, Axar has been doing that too, for instance, it was extremely mature of him to take Sunil Gavaskar’s comment on him being a “one dimensional bowler” in his stride and improve his skills, a closer analysis of his current bowling style will reveal that he now gives the ball a lot more flight and varies his pace way better, he is also a more-than-handy-bastman now. But, can he field like Ravi Jadeja, should be your question, have we given Axar Patel enough chances to judge him on that parameter, will be my response to that!
It does eventually come down to the minute things that either of them do better than the other, Ravindra Jadeja can bowl pretty well on tracks which assist him, but on tracks where he finds no assistance he seems as clueless as a humanities student in a Chemistry lab, while Axar Patel manages to perform slightly better at titration being the same humanities student.
But, one aspect where Axar surely has an edge over Ravindra Jadeja is his batting, Jadeja has for long been touted as someone who could hit the long-ball, but he hasn't done that quite often, a quickfire 61 off 37 balls against England at Kochi way back in 2013 which helped India post an insurmountable total before England, and his blitzkrieg 66 off 45 balls in the tied game against New Zealand at Auckland, a couple of more innings here and there, but for someone who has batted in 89 innings at crucial positions of no.6, 7 and 8 in ODIs, and for 17 innings in T20Is (apparently in his 5 innings, Axar Patel averages 12 more than Jadeja’s meagre average of 8.58), these aren’t really the numbers you’d be proud of, sure Axar Patel’s batting numbers don’t show a rosy picture either, but his ability to strike the ball consistently offers a lot of promise.
So, is it time? Is it time the Indian selectors looked beyond the stellar performer in Jadeja to Axar Patel, maybe, maybe not, but we cannot ignore that Axar Patel is knocking at the doors of the national limited overs’ international side quite often, and Jadeja still has a lot of convincing to do before the knocking on the door is loud enough to subvert anything that Ravindra Jadeja does.