On the fifth day of Ranchi Test, India looked favourite to take eight Australian wickets and take a 2-1 lead in the series. Indian skipper Virat Kohli began with Ravindra Jadeja and bowled him unchanged in the first session of play. From the other end, he, surprisingly, bowled either Ishant Sharma or Umesh Yadav. He hardly employed the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin in tandem.
In the first session, Ashwin was brought in quite late in the last few overs before lunch and bowled just an over or two in the first session. Even in the remaining two sessions, Kohli did not showed much faith in Ashwin’s bowling and rather trusted Jadeja to do the work for him. Agreed, Jadeja could make the best use of the rough patch left by bowlers. But Kohli’s complete lack of confidence in Ashwin portrays a different picture altogether.
Once the strike bowler for India, Ashwin has not been the same force in the Test series against Australia. Jadeja, throughout the current season, has played supporting role to Ashwin, but has not went past the off-spinner in this series as the leading strike bowler for India.
What has gone horribly wrong for Ashwin in matters of few Tests. He did get a six-wicket haul in Bengaluru, but it was in the fourth innings on a completely different track where turn and indifferent bounce had make life difficult at the crease. In the first Test at Pune, Ashwin took 7 wickets, but Steve O’Keefe stole the show with a 12-wicket haul.
On the Indian wickets, Ashwin was expected to run through the Australian batting line-up in the series, but he has struggled to be consistent in his line and length which has helped the opposition to score off him and get away. On the other hand, Jadeja has been extremely impressive with his clever variations and consistent line and length delivery.
Coming to the Ranchi Test, Jadeja looked to be the lone bowler working towards an India’s win while Ashwin struggled to beat the opposition batsmen. The fast bowlers did their best, but had there been a better support from Ashwin, India could well have taken a 2-1 lead in the series.
With the series currently levelled 1-1, there is all to play for in the fourth Test at Dharamsala beginning March 25. With Ashwin struggling, Kohli will be prompted to bring in a third spinner in Kuldeep Yadav to give extra bite to bowling attack and a better support to Jadeja’s left-arm bowling. For the records, Jadeja tops the list of wicket-takers in the series with 21 wickets @ 18.23. He has also silenced critics who always doubted his skills as Jadeja continues to impress with his left-arm bowling even on unfriendly-spinning wickets. Over to Dharamsala.