DUBAI (Reuters) – India left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja could not have envisaged a better comeback on his return to international limited-overs cricket, shrugging off a 14-month absence by taking four wickets against Bangladesh in an Asia Cup triumph on Friday.
The 29-year-old is a regular in the test side, particularly on home soil, but last played a one-dayer against West Indies in July 2017 and had been overlooked for white-ball cricket since.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who topped the world rankings for test bowlers alongside Jadeja last year, has suffered a similar fate in short-form cricket due to the success of wrist-spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
“During my earlier comebacks the gap was never so long. I will always remember this comeback because I returned to the team after a gap of almost 480 days,” Jadeja said after being named man of the match following his 4-29 display.
“I was playing only tests but the last two-three series were away and I was not getting many opportunities. I was telling myself that my job is to perform whenever I get an opportunity.
“That’s what is in my control and that’s how I was motivating myself. I was thinking how I can improve my game in away conditions.”
Jadeja’s heroics with the ball helped India restrict Bangladesh to 173 and they chased down the target with 82 balls and seven wickets to spare with stand-in captain Rohit Sharma remaining unbeaten on 83.
With India on a run of overseas tests in which they generally employ a lone spinner, opportunities had dried up for Jadeja, who is also a brilliant fielder and more-than-capable lower-order batsman.
He was a non-playing member of the touring party for three tests in South Africa in January, waiting until Afghanistan’s inaugural test against India in June for his next appearance.
Jadeja also warmed the bench in England for the first four tests before being included in the fifth and final match earlier this month. He made an unbeaten 86 in the first innings and took seven wickets as India lost by 118 runs in a 4-1 series defeat.
He was then a late call-up to the Asia Cup squad after all-rounder Hardik Pandya was injured against Pakistan and left-arm spinner Axar Patel hurt his finger during practice.
“I got confidence from the last test against England,” Jadeja said. “I was playing the Vijay Hazare Trophy (domestic 50-over competition) in Delhi and got a call for the one-dayers.
“I didn’t know what was going on here. I was very happy to get a call from the selectors, who asked me to be ready to go to Dubai.”
The 50-over World Cup is barely nine months away but Jadeja is not ready to look that far ahead.
“I am not thinking about the World Cup yet. We are going to play a lot of matches before that,” he said. “I have to perform the way I did today whenever I get an opportunity.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by John O’Brien)