What’s the story?
Brad Hodge, the coach of the Gujarat Lions franchise, gave his backing to all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who has failed to impress in the IPL so far after coming into the tournament on the back of a splendid run of form for the Indian cricket team.
Speaking to reporters after the Suresh Raina-led side slumped to their fifth loss in seven games to leave them rooted to the bottom of the 2017 IPL points table, Hodge acknowledged that time is starting to run out for the side but expressed confidence that they can script a turnaround in fortunes sooner rather than later.
Throwing his weight behind Jadeja, Hodge said that the onus was on other players to step up and play their part rather than waiting for Jadeja to regain his form.
"He (Jadeja) hasn't fired for us with bat or ball," Hodge said. "He has had a huge couple of months for India and has performed as well as anyone could have. To move from that to this tournament is tough. I think he'll step up for sure. He's still finding his feet and we need other players to step up on such days."
Jadeja impressed with both the ball and the bat helping India reclaim the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a 2-1 series victory over Australia. The series capped off a brilliant home season for the Men in Blue which saw them beat New Zealand, England and Bangladesh before finishing off the job in style against Steven Smith’s side.
The southpaw was brilliant throughout picking up 71 wickets in 13 Tests and now stands at the top of the ICC Test rankings for bowlers, ahead of teammate Ravichandran Ashwin. The gruelling run of matches did, however, take a toll on the all-rounder as he was advised two weeks’ rest by the BCCI after the final Test against Australia.
Consequently, Jadeja missed the opening two matches for Gujarat Lions, both of which they lost, and in spite of Jadeja making a comeback, their fortunes have not changed drastically, with the latest defeat coming on Sunday against a Kings XI Punjab side who had come into the contest on the back of four consecutive defeats.
The heart of the matter
Gujarat Lions’ disastrous start to the season was compounded by the news that star all-rounder Dwayne Bravo has been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign after failing to recover from the hamstring injury. The West Indian sustained while playing for Melbourne Renegades in the 2016 Big Bash League. So it was quite understandable when reporters posed the question about how Jadeja needed to raise his game if Gujarat had any chance of sealing a spot in the knockout stages of the 2017 IPL.
Replying in the affirmative, Hodge said that the 28-year-old was perhaps finding it difficult to adjust to the T20 format after playing so many Test matches on the trot but is confident about the player’s return to form. Jadeja has picked just two wickets, conceding runs at a high 9.70 runs per over while he has also struggled with the bat scoring just 51 runs in five games so far.
Singling out poor bowling as the reason for their slump, the former Australian cricketer, who described Jadeja as a three-dimensional player who was hard to replace, said that other bowlers needed to improve their bowling as well rather than Jadeja bearing the brunt of the critics.
Following their loss on Sunday, Gujarat Lions have three days off to recoup and perhaps rethink their strategy before they take on another struggling side in Royal Challengers Bangalore on Thursday before they face off against the high-flying Mumbai Indians on Saturday.
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Jadeja might be struggling for form at the moment but there's no doubt that he will come to the party sooner rather than later. The Saurashtra cricketer has shown that in the past and there's no reason why he won't again.
As Hodge said, perhaps he is taking time to switch from the Test format to T20 cricket, with the break taking his momentum off the game. Gujarat Lions badly need him, especially with Bravo being ruled out, and it is more of a question of when rather than if he will get back to form and the Gujarat fans will be hoping it comes against RCB on Thursday.