ODI bowler ranking: 1
Ravindra Jadeja, routinely referred to as ‘Sir’ by amused cricket fans and his own team, is now the no. 1 ranked ODI bowler in the world. He joined Sunil Narine at the top of the list after the 5-match ODI series against Zimbabwe– where he claimed 5 wickets at an economy rate of 3.5.
Jadeja is only the fourth Indian bowler ever to top the rankings after Kapil Dev, Maninder Singh and Kumble. He is the first in 17 years, after Anil Kumble reached the peak in 1996. To put things into perspective, bowlers like Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Javagal Srinath are some of the Indian names that have never been ranked no. 1 in ODIs.
His ascendance to the top only proves the value of economical spinners in current limited overs cricket, with Yuvraj Singh starting the trend in the 2011 World Cup. Ajmal joins the spinning list in the top 5 with Steve Finn and James Anderson 3rd and 4th respectively.
Jadeja started as nothing more than a part time spinner, a batting all-rounder with three triple centuries in Ranji cricket to his name. He was drafted back into the ODI team during the doomed 3-match new year series against Pakistan, where he played in the 2nd match at Kolkata.
There has been no looking back since then, and he has taken 38 wickets in 22 games this year, not counting his importance as the second (sometimes first) spinner in test cricket. Sniggers and chuckles could be heard deep into India’s fanbase when he was given an opportunity to play test cricket against England in the final test- but he quickly became one of the few young names responsible for the rapid resurrection of Indian cricket. His highest batting score during this period has only been 61 (vs England at home), but he has not had many opportunities to come in at suitable times to get big scores. He has always come in at the fag end of an innings, thanks to India’s sudden rise in batting fortunes (Dhawan, Kohli, Dhoni), and has operated excellently in tandem with R. Ashwin as effective spin twins after the demise of Harbhajan Singh’s career.
Jadeja was MoM in India’s Champions Trophy final against England, and again took 4 wickets to destroy Sri Lanka’s middle order in the final of the triseries in West Indies. His 48* in the final game of the Zimbabwe series finished things off in style, giving him some much needed batting confidence ahead of the T20 Champions Trophy later this month. Skipper Dhoni has to be given much credit for Jadeja’s miraculous transformation- after continuing to turn to him in CSK’s IPL campaigns despite a stuttering international career that included disappointments of multiple T20 World Cup failures.
He is currently the second-ranked all rounder after Bangladesh’s Shakib, who is understandably ahead because of his superior batting prowess (thanks to Bangladesh’s consistently poor top order failures).
Still, arguably Jadeja’s greatest accomplishment to date has not been his consistent ODI performances, but his bowling during India’s 4-0 whitewash of the hapless Aussies earlier this year. Jadeja, who is yet to score a test 50, captured 24 wickets in the series to take the pressure off Ashwin and Ishant successfully, giving India their first 4-0 ever as well as their first 5-0 ODI victory overseas ever.