The Indian cricket team’s all-time low of 36 all out at Adelaide Oval last December saw them making wholesale changes, both forced and unforced, for the second Test at the MCG while fielding five bowlers. From then to the last Test again England in Ahmadabad in March, this trend has continued and there seems to be an ease around both Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane while captaining with that additional bowling option.
In Australia, Ravindra Jadeja played the second and third Tests as the second spinner and the fifth bowler and performed his job with utmost precision: by scoring fifties, taking wickets and catches and running out Australian batsmen. Before he was ruled out of the tour with a fracture sustained while batting at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Jadeja’s bowling and batting averages in the series were an astounding 15 and 85 respectively.
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His performance in non-spin friendly conditions like Australia make the case, once again, of India playing five bowlers – three fast bowlers and two spinners – in England where they will contest the inaugural ICC World Test Championship final against New Zealand followed by five Tests against the home team.
The fast bowlers could be rotated according to the workload while R Ashwin and Jadeja can play in tandem. Jadeja can be the fifth bowler and bonafide allrounder, batting at No 7. Given our depth of fast bowling currently and Ashwin’s recent form, three fast bowlers and Ashwin would be enough to take 20 wickets.
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But having a bowler as skilled as Jadeja on the field gives Kohli a superb option according the situation. Jadeja can be economical, which is his forte, and put pressure on the batsmen which allows India’s fast bowlers to attack. And given Jadeja’s natural ability of tight line and length bowling, it might produce wickets.