After being ignored for the first four Tests in the ongoing series against England, left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja was finally given an opportunity in the final match at The Oval in place of an unfit Ravichandran Ashwin.
Jadeja had a fruitful outing, returning with figures of 4-79 in the first innings from 30 overs. He was sharp, relentless with his lines and had the batsmen in trouble on many occasions.
What was most impressive about this performance was that he conceded the runs at an economy of just 2.63 - the third best for any bowler in a Test innings where they bowled 25 or more overs without bowling a maiden. Dennis Lillee's 5-84 in 28.3 overs at an economy of 2.22 during the 1971 Adelaide Test against England is the best in that list.
The stat apart, what also came to light once again is Jadeja's ability to perform as a lone spinner in overseas conditions. Ashwin struggled badly in the fourth Test in Southampton and was overall pretty average in the Test series. Even against South Africa earlier in the year, he had failed to be an impact match-winning bowler that India expects him to be.
No one can deny that Ashwin is a champion spinner in sub-continent conditions but it is safe to say he has struggled to be a match-winning bowler for India outside Asia for quite a while now. Ashwin only has 102 wickets in 26 Tests away from home. Take the 38 wickets in six Tests in Sri Lanka and five wickets in one Test in Bangladesh, and he would be left with only 59 Test wickets in 19 Tests outside Asia.
Why Jadeja over Ashwin
With Jadeja doing a really good job as a bowler in the first innings and following that up with a superb fifty, he has made a strong case for himself to be used as the lone specialist spinner in overseas conditions.
As of now, Jadeja has featured in 11 away Tests for India and has captured 38 wickets in them at an average of 35.02. While this may not be a great record, it is pretty decent and can improve if he is given regular chances.
Jadeja has the ability to bowl accurately and tight. He knows his limitations, and unlike Ashwin, doesn't experiment too much with his variations which suit him well. Also, as a left-armer, he exploits the rough area outside the batsmen's off-stump really well and in places like England, Australia and New Zealand, this can be vital.
More than the wickets, Jadeja, as he showed with his economical bowling in the fifth Test, can really contain the batsman in overseas Tests and that helps the fast bowlers to apply further pressure.
The time has come perhaps to seriously consider Jadeja as the lone spinner in away Tests for India and give him a long run. With proper backing, he may turn out to be the answer to India's spin problems overseas.