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Ravindra Jadeja - the bowler we focused and adored; the batsman we didn’t

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Jadeja has emerged into a top-class batsman for India


Ravindra Jadeja - the bowler we focused and adored; the batsman we didn’t

Since 2008, when he was part of his second stint as a U-19 player in the Indian age-group team, Jadeja has always been hailed as an incredible talent, who with his bowling can be deadly effective. While his bowling has been effective and deadly to say so, his batting?

At 121/6, India had a real jolt against the Proteas in the final of the U-19 World Cup and in stepped Ravindra Jadeja, the man who had by then already been part of a U-19 World Cup for the country in the previous edition. He turned the ball square, steered it to the third man and was also involved in a run-out to send back Iqbal Abdullah. 

Later on, with seven overs left in the innings, he holed out to deep, making no impact with the bat but his two wickets with the ball and his steel-like nerves in the field helped India win the tournament. That was how he arrived onto the scene, people knew him as the cricketer with a long-hair, who bowled incredible line and length as a left-arm spinner. 

In between his heroics in the Indian colours and his return to Saurashtra’s team, he was picked, branded as a talent and sold as a superstar for the Rajasthan Royals, who shocked the other franchises in their brilliant win. While Jadeja didn’t have a stellar season like Shane Watson or Sohail Tanvir, he wasn’t far behind when it came to the town talking. 

“Jadeja when he first came to us (Royals), he was described as a left-arm spinner and a handy lower-order batsman. We had trial games and all sorts of stuff and then I thought, he can bat, he’s better than a No.8, he’s more of a genuine all-rounder. He can bat at the top five-six and he can bowl while fielding really well. We turned into him as a No.5 batsman and relied on him as a bowler, he enjoys the responsibility. He played really well and was one of the standout players for us in that first season,” Warne uttered these words to Rajasthan Royals in 2010, which didn’t quite garner the attention of the YouTube comments, who only aimed to put down Jadeja’s efforts, branding him as a ‘stupid’ player. 

When he walked into the Saurashtra dressing room for the 2008/09 season, everything was normal as it always was after the teammates congratulated him for the twin-win. Services resumed, he scored 739 runs in 13 innings, at an average of 67.18 and picked up 42 wickets at an average of 19.92. He was always there only overshadowed by the brilliance from Cheteshwar Pujara with the bat, who scored 906 runs - at an average of 82.36. Pujara later went on to make his Test debut, Jadeja didn’t at least for another two years before he was picked for the Nagpur Test against England. 

And in case you didn’t know, Jadeja has an average of 47.22 as a batsman, with 5856 runs under his belt while picking up 426 wickets at an average of 24.12, something unheard of on the Indian domestic circuit. 

Ravindra Jadeja, the batsman? © Twitter

The question that always surrounded the left-hander meanwhile was, is he a good enough batsman? In the three years that preceded his Test debut, Jadeja had high-scores of 60, 61, and 78. While the 60 and 61 came in against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka, the 78 was what defined him as a potential true all-rounder in the Indian colours. At 60/5, India were in tatters, James Anderson and Stuart Broad were running in circles and Jadeja walked in as a resurrector. In the commentary, the suggestion was to bowl full-length to force Jadeja into a false drive. 

When he exited, India had already amassed 229, the left-handed had earned his tag, put a price on his wicket, and scored 78 runs off 89 deliveries, possibly a defining score for his place in the Indian team. While he never really took off as a consistent batsman in the Indian whites, he always showed flashes of brilliance - be it his 31 in Nottingham, 68 in Lord’s, 70 in Colombo or his 81 in Sydney but never delivered at a consistency desired by the fans to warrant a place as a specialist batsman. He was in short, called as a batsman version of “flash in the pan”. 

While his bowling was never in doubt, he never possessed the earthly ability to play as a wicket-taking option in the Indian whites, with the management placing their hands on the faithful Ravichandran Ashwin. So when the Melbourne Test came by and he was fully fit finally after the T20I series, the question was whether he could carry the lower Indian batting unit. 

Now, his 2019 statistics came to his rescue and certainly his batting in the last three years, which is no doubt one of the best in the world. Combine that with his bowling average, he is statistically the best all-rounder since 2017 but that isn’t quite a fair comparison for the left-hander. Since 2017, Jadeja averages - 49.25 with the bat and 23.68 with the ball, which is only a touch lower than Jason Holder and Vernon Philander. 

He was always hailed as a great all-rounder but it was always going to be his batting which posed the searching question and the answer was sporadic at its best. His best came at home, went away unrealised before his bowling took the driver seat. In Melbourne, he allowed none - not his bowling; not his critics, and certainly not the fans to make a noise. It was about him, his batting, his zeal-like Pujaraness that he developed from watching him bat. 

This was certainly not a Jadeja a painter would paint a canvas on, it was a Jadeja who painted a new portrait of himself on the canvas. Every defence of his was met by a clap from several Indian fans, every run with a gasp and more importantly every boundary with a mini-ovation to certainly praise his zeal, he had arrived - not just as an all-rounder but as a batsman, merely as someone who would walk into the playing XI purely on the basis of his batting. 

At the age of 32, he is in the twilight stage of his career and that coincides with the rest of the Indian cricket, as they are more than capable of pathing a way to success. It was not his first or his last but merely his way of repaying the trust instilled in him by the management, who were willing to take the punt. He was everywhere, with the bat, with the ball and seemingly looked like an extension of a golden run for him. While Chennai suffered a mighty crash, the left-hander’s stock as a batsman rose, certainly to an all-time high, only to be broken a few months later. 

For Jadeja, the perception has been well built on his batting prowess but as technically and sound, his triple centuries and an endless amount of shadow sessions in Rajkot has certainly come to increase his status as a Test batsman. Having walked out as the eight-player in the history of cricket to score three triple-centuries at the age of 23, Jadeja stepped down the mountain; only to climb a steeper one. He’s not only earned his right in the dressing room as an all-rounder but now purely as a specialist batsman. So kindly, pay more attention!

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