Jadeja Axar Patel

The national selectors are trying to strengthen an Achilles’ Heel— the all-rounder’s position — as after Kapil Dev, India has been unable to find a quality all rounder.

With Ravindra Jadeja losing form and not being selected in the ODI series, the vacancy at No. 7 was supposed to be filled by Gurkeerat Singh who earned his place in the squad after scoring an 85 ball 87 (not out) and taking 2/42 for India A in the tri-series final against Australia A. But unfortunately for him, he didn’t get a game and his place was taken by Axar Patel.

The slow-arm orthodox bowler, after his exceptional performance in 2014 IPL, for which he was awarded the emerging player of the tournament, Axar was rewarded with a place in the Indian ODI squad for the Bangladesh tour.

Patel then conceded only 26 runs for 2 wickets in his 10 overs against West Indies to cement his place in the squad. He also played against Sri Lanka in all 5 matches, took 11 wickets & made 31 runs at a strike rate of 178. Also, he was a member of the Indian Team for the 2015 World Cup.

Gurkeerat Singh, who has a double century to his name, is an exciting prospect for the Indian team. He became a serious contender for the all-rounder spot when he first scored an unbeaten 87 runs off 81 balls in the Triangular Series Final against Australia A to help India A win the series. He walked into bat with India A struggling at a mere 82/5 and needing 145 more runs to win the match. He continued this good form against Bangladesh A where he scored a half century.

Stuart Binny, after quitting the rebel league ICL, was selected for India’s ODI team which toured New Zealand. Binny took six wickets, giving away only four runs, thus surpassing Anil Kumble in having the best bowling figures for any Indian bowler in the ODI format and turning the match on its head after India collapsed for a paltry 130.

Axar Patel was initially chosen as backup for Ravindra Jadeja who was going through a rough patch and was inducted in the playing 11 if the track looked like it might assist the spinners.

He has been the most economical bowler for India in 2014 and is also quite handy with the bat.

On the other hand, Stuart Binny was purely chosen as a fast-bowling all rounder. In seaming conditions or on bouncy pitches, such as in Australia and New Zealand, Binny might prove useful with the ball and bat.

In the current scenario, Binny is the best bet India has for a pace-bowling all rounder.

“Depending on a few venues, in Perth or in New Zealand, it is important to have a seaming all-rounder in the side. Stuart Binny is exciting, can play aggressive shots and give me 6-8 overs so I use other part-timers less. Irrespective of the debate, the best seaming all-rounder of India has been picked,” said skipper MS Dhoni.

Binny’s debut match is an example of Dhoni’s instinctive captaincy, where he didn’t get to bat, bowled 1 over and went wicketless. If he fancies a particular decision, he will stick to it as if there is no better plan in the world. He is priceless in any format; not only does he bring depth and stability in the line-up, he also provides flexibility to the skipper.

At present, India has three options – Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Stuart Binny. India has invested enough time and faith in Jadeja but the results haven’t come the way they would have liked. Though he starred with the ball in Champions Trophy 2013, Jadeja has more than often failed to deliver in crunch games.

Axar and Jadeja possess identical all-rounder skills, both are left-arm orthodox spin bowlers and are aggressive batsmen who bat in the same manner. Jadeja has got a lot of chances to make himself a permanent fixture in the team, but for a player who has 119 One-Day International caps to his name by now, a lot more is expected of him. Dhoni has also lost faith in him and prefers Axar Patel over him as he gave a miserable performance during World Cup 2015.

It’s time for Axar or Gurkeerat Gill to prove their mettle. They can prove to be the X factor for India in the next World Cup to be held in England if groomed properly.

Stuart Binny too has a great chance of making it to the side for the next World Cup. He can swing the new ball and is handy with the bat but his age might be an issue.

For now, Axar looks to be the top contender to fill in the big shoes of an all-rounder and it’s probably the perfect time to groom him for the next World Cup in England since Jadeja has already proved that quality spin wouldn’t go unawarded.

But again, the inclusion of Ravindra Jadeja in the team shows a sorry state of affairs as India is still unable to find a player who could chip in with both bat and bowling.

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