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Multi-dimensional Axar shows he's more than capable of filling Jadeja's big boots
Anjishnu Roy 6.9K Views Last week
With Ravindra Jadeja out injured, the Men in Blue have relied on Axar Patel to fill his void in the team. Being an experienced left-handed all-rounder who is precious for the side in all three departments, Jadeja certainly has left plenty of big shoes to fill.
However, 28-year-old Axar Patel who is finally coming into his own in international cricket over the last few years will see this opportunity as the biggest breakthrough in his recent white-ball career. Having matured tremendously as a cricketer since he first burst on to the scene, the left-hander is pretty much a like-for-like replacement for Ravindra Jadeja.
Like Jadeja, he also bowls slow left-arm orthodox and commands a crucial presence during the middle overs. Axar is also a more than handy batter who has been continuously working to improve this aspect of his game and has been reaping those benefits lately.
Since January 2021, the 28-year-old is the second-highest wicket-taking spinner for Team India in T20Is with 17 wickets to his name from 17 matches, only behind Yuzvendra Chahal’s 25. He has bowled with an average of 21.17 and also has an economy rate of 7.37.
Axar has also proven to be a flexible spinner in T20Is and can be even utilised to good effect in the powerplay overs. He has bowled 16 overs in the powerplay phase in T20Is for Team India and has collected 10 wickets at an average of 11.4 and an economy rate of 7.12. Even in the first couple of T20Is against Australia, Axar did really well when asked to bowl in the powerplay.
Team India have already been grooming Axar as a direct replacement for Ravindra Jadeja more frequently in the limited overs setup in recent years. Although Axar is yet to play a T20 International in Australia, he will be encouraged by the fact that Jadeja is the highest wicket-taking spin bowler for the team in matches held in Australia with six wickets and he will be looking to emulate the same magic with similar methods.
During the first T20I against Australia in Mohali, where the entire Indian bowling unit was taken to the cleaners by the opposition, Axar bowled an outrageous spell of 3/17 in his four overs while defending a total of 208. He followed that up with another stellar spell of 2/13 in two overs even though the Australian batters tried to maximise on as many big shots as possible in the shortened eight-overs-a-side second T20I. This just goes to show his composure and how he’s unfazed by the opposition and the match situation he faces.
Batting has been an area of his game that has seen the most progression in recent years. He has amassed 75 runs in 12 T20Is played in 2022 and has a wonderful strike rate of 150 which comes in handy lower down the order for the team. Even in IPL 2022, he had a fantastic year with the bat for Delhi Capitals scoring 182 runs in 13 innings at a wonderful average of 45.50 and an even better strike rate of 151.67. Axar also played several crucial match-winning knocks with the bat for DC in the IPL this season.
It is a role that he has been getting accustomed to while playing white-ball cricket for India in One Day Internationals. Even in the recent series against West Indies away from home, he smacked 64 runs off just 35 deliveries while chasing 312 to clinch the series for India in the second ODI.
While batting, Axar’s left-handedness also adds a crucial dimension to India’s batting given that Rishabh Pant is the only capable left-handed batter in the team besides him. It goes without saying that a lot of India’s plans will be centred around taking advantage of matchups and Axar can also be utilised as a floater in the batting unit, a role he has already played for DC in the IPL.
Coming to India’s T20I setup, the all-round duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya have always managed to do wonders and team up as a formidable match-winning combination for the side in this format of the game. Similarly, Axar also brings plenty of balance to the team with his skills across both the batting and bowling departments.
There will be a lot of pressure on his shoulders going into the next few months which could end up defining the future of his international career, but as Axar showed with his performance in the first T20I against the defending world champions, he can prove to be the X-factor for the Men in Blue on their conquest of the World Cup Down Under.
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Anjishnu Roy
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