Ravindra Jadeja has been a perfect fit for the missing puzzle piece to the Indian cricket team in terms of an all-rounder. The Saurashtra southpaw is currently 28-years-old and is at the peak of his playing career. Over a couple of years, he managed to seal the top position for himself in the Blue Army but every good player at one point has to hang his boots up and that is when the team needs someone to fill the void left behind. Interestingly, India might have found a perfect replacement for Jadeja, and that too from his home state, Gujarat. The lad for the job is Gujarat’s 17-year-old Siddharth Desai. In the coming days, Desai can make it big if he is nurtured well says former Indian bowler Balwinder Singh Sandhu who has guided the teenager in the recent past. Sandhu said that Desai is India material if he is guided well and if anyone can replace Ravindra Jadeja, it’s him.
Jadeja has proved his mettle with both bat and ball in the past, however, there is one thing that the slow left arm-orthodox spinners lack and that is bounce. This is exactly where Desai has an advantage. He has a high-arm action which helps in extra bounce. The action gives his deliveries good flight and gets the drift in the air. Therefore, the result is that batsmen find it hard to play the ball. Gujarat’s Parthiv Patel also seems to have a similar thought. “There are no high-arm action bowlers these days, and hence not many get that kind of bounce. Siddharth Desai has that action, gives flight and gets the drift in the air. It’s difficult to play him because of the bounce,” he said.
Desai is currently the fourth-highest wicket taker with 28 wickets in four matches. On Monday, he took his third five-for the season to bowl out Rajasthan cheaply and help Gujarat to an innings victory. Sandhu who has backed the 17-year-old recalled telling Desai to impress Patel with his bowling skills at an NCA camp before the domestic season. Sandhu said that he told Desai to trouble Patel with your bowling and you will play at the top. Interestingly, the boy did exactly the same.
With left-arm spinner Axar Patel on national duty, Gujarat had to look out for a partner, who can bowl with Piyush Chawla this season. And they decided to give chance to the lanky Desai who had taken 30 wickets for Gujarat under 19 teams last season. Sandhu first saw Desai at West Zone camp where he was the coach for the inter-zonal tournament. He remembers a boy with potential but who wasn’t putting much into the bowling. “The high-arm action was the first thing you notice. I felt he had a nice easy repeatable action but he wasn’t turning it much or getting the ball to dip as he was bowling it a touch quick – perhaps because he had played a lot of limited-overs cricket just before that. I told him if you want wickets, dip, and drift are very crucial,” Sandhu said.
However, Desai who started as a fast bowler switched to spin on the advice of his coach Tarak Trivedi in Ahmedabad. Even his journey to become a cricket was the choice of his passionate father Ajay who wanted his son to be a professional cricketer. However, Desai still has a long way to go before he makes it big and until then Parthiv Patel and Gujarat will take his wickets with glee.