India left-arm spinner Axar Patel’s dismissal of England’s Jonny Bairstow was very Ravindra Jadeja-like. Patel, playing just his second Test, beat Bairstow on the inside edge for leg-before wicket. The right-handed batsman played for the turn, only to realise that there was no turn. It is something Jadeja does extremely well on Indian wickets where there is turn.
Jadeja and Patel bowl a tight line, giving nothing away, instead of giving turn to the ball. Jadeja, who is yet to recover from a thumb fracture he suffered in Australia, has paired with Ashwin successfully over the last eight years of Test cricket in India, helping the team stay unbeaten at home in Test series since 2012-13.
When India last lost a series at home, in 2012-13 against England, Jadeja and Ashwin were yet to form a pair with the left-arm spinner making his debut only in the drawn last Test of that series. Ashwin and Jadeja have taken 348 wickets in the 33 Tests they have played together.
It came as no surprise then, that India’s sole concern in the bowling department ahead of the Test series against England was Jadeja’s absence. His accuracy, variations in pace and minimal turn are important assets to confuse batsmen on wickets that aid turn. Axar Patel, however, has stepped into his shoes well.
The Gujarat left-arm spinner picked up his second successive five-wicket haul, a 6/38, on Wednesday after 5/60 in the second innings of the second Test. Patel stuck to an accurate line in both innings across the two Tests and allowed the pitch and batsmen’s nerve do the rest.
“Axar is good at getting one to skid on and one to turn,” said England opener Zak Crawley, who himself fell to Patel as England’s fourth wicket after scoring a half-century.
This created confusion, to which England batsmen succumbed. Not just confused by which ball to play and which to ignore, but where to play, on front foot or back foot.
Former India left-arm spinner Maninder Singh feels both Patel and Jadeja know their limitations and that serves them well.
“The similarity between Jadeja and Axar Patel is that they know their strengths. They don’t go out of the way to do things they don’t know. They know what their capabilities and limitations are. They both know that they can’t bowl classical spin of using flight etc. That (knowing their limitations) is their biggest strength and is the most important thing,” Maninder told IANS.
“They know what they can do and they stick to that.”
The 55-year-old former spin bowler says that having a coach like Ravi Shastri who, too, played within his limitations, has helped.
“If you see Shastri’s batting, he would score off the hips, with flicks but would avoid cover-drive. Only after reaching a century, he would try that. Otherwise he would stay away from it. Ravi knew his strengths and knew the cover drive wasn’t his strength. Similarly, these two boys (Jadeja and Patel) know their strengths,” he said. On Wednesday, Patel said that he stuck to a wicket-to-wicket line as there was nothing else to do.