The last four months have been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for Ravindra Jadeja. He came back in style after missing the tour of South Africa to score 175 vs Sri Lanka and pick nine wickets in the Test at Mohali to cap one of the great solo all-round performances by an Indian player in a Test.
Then, he was elevated as captain of Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, an episode that ended in chaos, as the franchise was forced to reinstate MS Dhoni as skipper after a horrendous start, leading the allrounder to claim he was injured and miss the second half of the IPL.
‘Jaddu’, as he is affectionately called, even stopped following the franchise on social media, leading to speculation about his future with the decorated team in yellow.
He missed the T20 series against South Africa, but was named in the squad for England and with question marks about his technique against the moving ball, despite having reasonable success in England as a batter, (he averages 30.03), he walked in at No.7 with India 98 for 5, added 222 with Rishabh Pant and played the perfect second fiddle.
When #TeamIndia all-rounder @imjadeja brought up his 3rd Test💯 and his first outside India 👏🏾👏🏾🙌🏾⚔️📸 https://t.co/MVCxaQrOYY
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1656761480000
Without taking much away from Pant’s brilliance, would it be fair to assume that it was Jadeja’s hermit like approach and solidity initially, that allowed Pant the confidence to shed inhibition and opt for adventure and pyrotechnics?
In his early years, the initial fidgetiness and restlessness and the casual slash outside off-stump when dealing with the seaming ball was a constant and it often gave one the impression that Jadeja suffers too much from the ‘tail-enders mentality’ and doesn’t want to battle it out. He also seemed happy playing cameos and starring only in white-ball heists.
A lot of that of course had to do with his batting position of No.8. It meant that either he got stuck with the tail or he had to push the scoring rate to allow the team to force a declaration.
All that though started changing in 2016 when Anil Kumble took over as coach of the Indian team and allocated lengthier and more intense net sessions for the lower order players. Jadeja, the man with three Ranji Trophy triple hundreds, was an instant beneficiary. Credit should also go to then skipper Virat Kohli, who often used to wait till Jadeja completed a batting landmark before declaring, making him think like a batsman.
If it was @RishabhPant17 who scored a cracking ton on Day 1, it was @imjadeja who completed a solid hundred on Day… https://t.co/2zpSLIjTX4
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1656786296000
Since 2016, he averages 44.06 with all his three tons and 16 of his 17 half centuries coming in the last six years.
The way he defends or lets balls go now, traits he showed in abundance in his knock of 103 at Edgbaston, gives the dressing room and the man batting at the other end massive confidence.
He has now also cracked the art of batting with the lower-order and manoeuvring the field and farming the strike, as he showed during his substantial and entertaining 48-run eighth wicket alliance with Mohammed Shami on Day Two.
Now for some numbers. After playing 60 Tests, Ravindra Jadeja has a batting average of 36.76 and a bowling average of 24.44.
That is elite stuff and puts him in the company of bonafide greats like Garfield Sobers, Jacques Kallis, Imran Khan and Kieth Miller.
More numbers. Since 2017, he averages 46.75, higher than David Warner‘s 45.76. As a bowler, his average is the same period is 26.31. Mitchell Starc averages 26.98 in that phase.
While he has aced his role as a batter overseas, a reason why he has consistently played ahead of R Ashwin, it is time to deliver with the ball consistently too.
On Indian pitches, especially the ones that are wearing, he always is a threat as the pace at which he bowls, allows the batsman hardly any time if the ball misbehaves and bowling over the wicket, he can aim for the rough and shut the game down if the rival team is scoring very quickly.
Overseas, that option is unavailable.
For the time being though, let’s celebrate Jadeja the batsman.