The former cricketer suggested India should play the all-rounder as only a sixth bowling option, while also criticizing skipper Virat Kohli's decision to drop wicket-taking leg-spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
Sanjay Manjrekar noted his observations in a column for the Hindustan Times after India's heavy defeat to Pakistan on Sunday. All Indian bowlers went wicketless as Pakistan cruised in their chase of 152 to record a 10-wicket win.
Sanjay Manjrekar asserted that India should look at Ravindra Jadeja as a batter who can bowl a few overs and not the other way around. He also said Hardik Pandya should also be viewed as a pure batter because he's unlikely to bowl anytime soon.
"Jadeja can be your third spinner who will bowl a few overs and not someone you depend on to bowl his full quota of four overs. He has done that only a little more than 50% of the times in T20Is and he certainly can’t be one of your five bowling options.
"But for that India MUST feel that Jadeja can replace a batter in the playing XI and then be your 6th bowling option. The team will have a better balance then.
"If Hardik is not going to bowl he must be given the status of a pure batter and your expectation from him must be like you have from a pure batter."
The cricketer-turned commentator also made an interesting observation regarding the direction of Indian cricket after the team's defeat in the 2019 World Cup match against England.
Sanjay Manjrekar criticized Kohli for dropping the "potent formula" of deploying aggressive spinners like Chahal and Kuldeep to bring back Jadeja and Ashwin who are not "wicket-takers."
"That defeat to England in the 2019 World Cup in England is a significant moment in the recent history of India’s white ball cricket. It’s the last match India played, with two spinners in the squad looking for wickets.
"But Virat abandoned that potent winning formula of having spinners who were wicket taking and more importantly bowling only to get wickets. That’s what Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal would do...
"After dumping R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, interestingly after a defeat to Pakistan, this time in the Champions Trophy final in England in 2017, India have gone back to them again. Ashwin, like Jadeja, is not a wicket-taker. Both are more focused on economy than wickets. I believe in T20s, the spinners’ job is to get wickets and be the game changer in the middle."
Both Kuldeep and Chahal were part of India's last T20I series in Sri Lanka earlier this year. The latter was also the second-highest wicket-taker among spinners in IPL 2021.
While Kuldeep's form was a concern, Chahal was apparently overlooked for his slow bowling style.
"India made a mistake by not sending Hardik ahead of both Jadeja and Pant" - Sanjay Manjrekar
Sanjay Manjrekar also pointed out India's 'mistake' of not sending Pandya to bat ahead of Jadeja and Rishabh Pant against Pakistan.
He said that the promotion would not only have given Pandya some time to settle but also allowed India to make a better informed decision on his immediate future.
"India made a mistake by not sending Hardik ahead of both Jadeja and Pant. I know India wanted to keep the left-hand/right-hand combination going, one important reason why Imad Wasim, the left arm spinner, bowled just two overs.
"But elevating Hardik would have served two purposes. You would have given Hardik, the pure batter, the platform any out-of-form batter wants--a bit of time to settle. Also, you would have then had a better understanding of Hardik’s current state of mind and batting ability to decide his immediate future in this tournament."
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India will lock horns with New Zealand next on Sunday in Dubai.