Ravindra Jadeja is ready to make a comeback for the Boxing Day Test after passing a fitness test
Ravindra Jadeja is ready for a comeback from India’s XI for the Boxing Day Test after passing a fitness test on Thursday evening (December 24th). The all-rounder is likely to beat 7th, adding significantly to India’s bowling attack on an MCG court that visitors could get by with some wicket firepower. As a result, Jadeja will be an unlikely replacement for Captain Virat Kohli, who returned home for the birth of his first child.
He is accompanied by Rishabh Pant, who will take over the gloves from Wriddhiman Saha and is expected to come in 6th, while Shubman Gill makes his test debut at the top of the leaderboard in place of Prithvi Shaw. On Saturday (December 26th) there will be another debutant for the visitors, either Mohammad Siraj or Navdeep Saini, with the Hyderabad seaman appearing to be in pole position to get the nod. India decided against an optional training session on Christmas Day and rigorously sweated it out over the past two days. And right now it looks like Hanuma Vihari will hold onto his spot and beat No. 4 as he did in all four innings of the warm-up games, with KL Rahul staying on the bench.
There were promising signs that Jadeja was fully fit again since the Adelaide Test began. He had transitioned from sprinting to hitting the nets and even had a bowl in the middle before the game began on the final day of the game. He was the busiest member of the Indian contingent in Melbourne, bowling for a long time and then taking several breaks with the bat.
He was one of the first batsmen in the nets on Thursday and spent a good half an hour facing all comers. Then he immediately took off his batting equipment and rolled away with his left arm beside R Ashwin and Vihari. And Jadeja stayed with it for well over an hour. When the rest of the team, including the head coaches who had a long sidelines discussion towards the end of practice, left, Jadeja reappeared with two of the fitness coaches. It wasn’t a laborious affair and mainly consisted of getting the all-rounder to do a few sprints up and down. Jadeja, usually the fastest between the gates on the Indian team, saw his fastest best and with no visible discomfort. The 7-8 minute session ended with him galloping back and forth for three virtual runs within 8-9 seconds. Then he walked out of the scene with a big smile on his face as the two coaches seemed equally pleased with his performance.
Jadeja injured her hamstring at the first T20I in Canberra on December 4th, minutes before he was hit on the helmet by a shipment from Mitchell Starc, which resulted in a concussion. At this point, the team management recommended a three-week recovery phase, which now appears to be over.
The inclusion of the 32-year-old naturally strengthens the Indian team in many ways. As they try to shake off the horrors of 36 from the Adelaide Oval last week and the loss of Kohli, the enterprising left-handed approach of the middle-order bat will add much-needed energy. Not to forget that Jadeja has achieved an average of 53.30 with the bat in 14 tests over the past 3 years. He had also looked in sensational form during the White Ball leg of the Tour prior to the unfortunate injury at the Manuka Oval. He’s hit the ball pretty well in the MCG nets in the last few days too.
The blow debacle aside, India’s odds were literally a deafening blow when Mohammed Shami broke his arm thanks to a rising shipment from Pat Cummins. Since Shami is to be replaced by a debutante, Jadeja not only has a lot of experience with the ball, but also some good memories from his last assignment with the MCG. Jasprit Bumrah may have walked away with the Match Honors man in 2018, but he received great support from the crank on his left arm. Jadeja scored an economy of 1.8 in numbers of 2/45 in 25 overs in the first innings before winning three major wickets in the second when India won by 137 runs.
His return will also add a lot of much-needed intensity to the field that India lacked despite its impressive Adelaide bowling show. His presence alone won’t solve India’s problems on this tour, but you would expect him to set and raise the standards as he always does. While the MCG field showed more life than usual for the New Zealand Test last year, India won’t mind having five specialized bowlers against an ever-improving Australian batting team.
India will also expect energy and intensity from Pant. The Delhi-based left-hander was the last to leave the net after spending long periods of time beating under the watchful eye of coach Ravi Shastri. The two also constantly exchanged notes with Shastri without engaging in technical discussions – as he had done with Mayank Agarwal and Rahul. He didn’t need it either when Pant continued timing and hit the ball with great fluency. His longest vigil took place in the fast bowler’s net, where Saini bowls with a lot of fire and speed and T Natarajan with a lot of deceit. There were a few wrong shots – at some point Pant admonished himself with “Cover Drive Kyun Maara “-but mostly he hit her well enough to please the trainer and himself. He ended his stint by facing a deluge of deliveries from the throwing specialists. And it took Shastri to break off the session when the two went off on what looked like the coach had asked his wicket keeper to focus on staying at the crease as calmly as possible.
Gill looked best as he prepared for his long-awaited debut. Shaw fought again only for a short duel with punch coach Vikram Rathour. His session was recorded by video analysts Hari Prasad and Shastri. Rathour and Shaw then got together to study the footage before the boy returned to the network for a few more deliveries. It is evident that the Mumbai opener was given the task of working on a certain part of its technique and it is likely that its tour has not yet ended, although it is said to be left out in Melbourne.
Shastri also had a few conversations with Rahul, who also had a long network and seemed to be on good terms. India might well be tempted to bring him in, but you’d think it’s fair for Vihari to make at least one more try at the MCG, where he opened the innings two years ago, by the way.
Australia also appeared to be calmly preparing for Jadeja’s return as assistant coach Sridharan Sriram worked extensively with the middle-order batsmen. It will be interesting to see how they attack him, considering the control he puts into the process with the ball in hand.
This is also the third time that Jadeja and Ashwin have taken a test together outside the subcontinent after Manchester in 2014 and Gros Islet in 2016. Last time, Jadeja’s fitness and his acceptance for the Boxing Day test had gotten under a cloud of uncertainty and controversy. Fortunately, his return to the field will bring much hope and faith to India as it seeks to recover from the shock and awe of the Adelaide defeat.