Injury to Jadeja a massive blow for India, but Virat returning to form a big plus: Jayawardene

by IANS |

Mumbai, Sep 17 (IANS) Sri Lankan cricket great Mahela Jayawardene feels India have suffered a major blow with all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja getting injured and not being a part of the 15-member squad for the ICC T20 World Cup, set to being in Australia next month.

Jadeja underwent a knee surgery a week back and is in the recovery phase, posting messages on social media and keeping his fans updated on his progress.

Jadeja had injured his right knee and was ruled out of the 2022 Asia Cup after playing the first two games in the continental event. The 33-year-old had also missed India's tour of the West Indies in July owing to an injury.

"It is a challenge (for India). They had fitted him (Jadeja) nicely in that No.5 role. He has been batting really well and him and Hardik (Pandya) being in that top six -- two guys who can give that all-round options -- gave India much more flexibility in that batting order," Jayawardena said on The ICC Review on Saturday.

A handy bowler as well as a left-handed power-hitter, Jadeja gave a much-needed balance to the India XI. And, the former Sri Lankan batter said his absence will be "a massive loss" to one of the early tournament favourites.

"It is a tough one for them, and probably a concern not having that left-hander. They've switched to leaving out DK (Dinesh Karthik) and bringing in Rishabh (Pant) in that role, batting at 5 or 4. Those are things they have to settle going into the World Cup. But not having Jadeja, the form that he was in... it will be a massive loss for them," opined Jayawardene.

Recently, IPL side Mumbai Indians had announced that their head coach Jayawardene was being elevated to a new role as part of the franchise's central team for its growing global cricket footprint. The former Sri Lanka skipper, who became the head coach of the franchise in 2017 and under whom MI won three IPL titles, has been appointed as MI's Global Head of Performance.

Jayawardene felt that despite the blow, India still have much to look forward given that their star batter Virat Kohli is regaining form. The 33-year-old had taken a month-long break from cricket to focus on his mental health and returned in the Asia Cup, scoring a century.

Kohli broke his century drought that spanned 1,020 days, scoring his 71st international hundred when he smashed an unbeaten 122 against Afghanistan. He finished as the second highest run-getter in the tournament with 276 runs at an impressive 92, striking at 147.59.

"He was there and thereabouts pretty much (in the Asia Cup)," said Jayawardena. "He just didn't have that big score under his belt to get that confidence, especially in white-ball cricket, which is always going to happen.

"There were a few injury concerns in the last 12 months. He had little niggles and they rested him and India kept on giving people rest, with the workload that they had. So not having that consistent run also makes it tough.

"In the Asia Cup he batted well, showed what he is capable of, especially in that batting position. Going forward for India, having that stability in that line-up and having confidence that a guy like Virat is going to be a factor, is going to be a concern for the opposition as well.

"It's good to see him batting like that. We need all these brilliant players to be at their best form in a World Cup, and that's what the World Cup deserves as well. Everyone going at each other at that level. It will be a fascinating World Cup in Australia," said Jayawardene.

Jayawardena added that India would be further bolstered by the return to fitness of pacer Jasprit Bumrah.

"For me the way they played, the skills, the talent, everything is there. They just need a little bit of confidence with the bat, with the ball and in the field," said Jayawardena.

"These are little things that India will want to improve. It's just the confidence of bowlers being able to get wickets and then executing skills.

"Obviously, not having Jasprit was also a factor. He fills a big gap for them with the new ball and at the back end. That will settle them as well when he is back in Australia.

"World Cups are about momentum, World Cups are about playing your best cricket at the right time. So as long as they lift their game up to that level, I think India has the quality of players who can do that."

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