World Cup 2019: Can Ravindra Jadeja be Virat Kohli's secret trump card in the knockouts?
India notched up a comprehensive and crucial win over Sri Lanka in their last league-phase game of the World Cup on Saturday that saw them perched atop the table at the completion of the first round and relishing the prospect of a semi-final against a New Zealand side that have lost three in a row.
It was a characteristically clinical performance by a very impressive side who dominated their Asian rivals in all departments of the game and were buoyed by the centuries hit by both openers, the maestro Rohit Sharma, and KL Rahul and will enter the semis in the best frame of mind.
One aspect of the seven-wicket victory might be overlooked in the hullabaloo surrounding Rohit's record-breaking spree. Ravindra Jadeja finally got game time in this World Cup. The experienced all-rounder had only been in the news till now because of his brilliant fielding exploits as a substitute and due to the unseemly controversy regarding Sanjay Manjrekar's 'bits and pieces' remark.
One might feel that Jadeja's inclusion was only a one-off arrangement before he drops back into the bench for the semi, but here's why he might just be the trump card India need to iron out the little issues that are still nagging them.
If Rishabh Pant is kept at his No.4 slot and Yuzvendra Chahal expectedly returns to the team after being rested, then Jadeja can still be kept in the team in place of Dinesh Karthik. Jadeja is a proven pinch-hitter lower down the order and can score rapidly in the death overs, something India has struggled to do with his middle and lower-middle orders.
Jadeja is no mere blaster though and is the first Indian to have hit three triple-centuries in domestic cricket. Thus, he can hang around with aplomb if necessary as well.
Jadeja was the pick of India's bowlers against Sri Lanka, with figures of 1/40 from his full quota. He looked sharp and bowled with precision. Not for nothing is he one of India's premier Test spinners and his left-arm orthodox gives captain Virat Kohli an extra bowling option that Karthik or Pant cannot.
He might have been out of the first 11, but Jadeja, one of the best in the business, has taken some crucial catches and impressed with his ground fielding as the Men in Blue romped into the semi-finals. In the knockouts, every run and every catch will be even more vital and Jadeja's skills on the field can actually make the difference in a close contest.
He adds the right balance to the team, especially in the shaky middle-order and is a great value-addition in the other departments of the game as well. His inclusion may well add that surprise element that takes the opponents by surprise since he has hardly had any game time till now.
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