When Shane Warne memorably dubbed Ravindra Jadeja the “rockstar” in 2008, it appeared to be a huge endorsement for a 19-old cricketer, but someone who was tailor-made for the shortest version of the game. Jadeja could bat a bit, bowl a bit and was electric in the field. At the time, he embraced the label too and showed little interest in being seen as a Test player.
But three triple centuries in two seasons of first-class cricket make a statement that is hard to ignore. Two triple centuries in the same season make a statement that is hard to ignore. The company of WG Grace, Bill Ponsford and Donald Bradman make a statement that is hard to ignore.
Full disclosure: I have never been the biggest Jadeja fan. His attitude and his technique led me to believe he does not have what it takes to play for India in all three formats of the game. But after his latest marathon effort, 331 against Railways (the seventh highest score in Ranji Trophy history), it might be time to reconsider what he can offer the Indian team.
Jadeja himself thinks so, as he told the Indian Express. “It was my aim to score big runs. People consider me a T20 and an ODI specialist and I knew that if I score 60s or 70s, it will not help me or my team. Now, I hope that people will change their impression about me and consider me good enough to score runs in the longer format too.”
While Jadeja will never be a classical player in the mould of a Cheteshwar Pujara, his Saurashtra teammate, making a triple-century still requires tremendous stamina, concentration and patience. There are innumerable distractions during the course of a batsman’s innings. To block them out over after over and hour after hour is something that must be learned and not everyone is able to absorb those lessons. To do it three times shows that Jadeja has developed the ability to play the big innings and has the hunger for runs that is a necessary condition to succeed in the longer format.
Admittedly, his other innings this season have been 13, 4, 5 and 0, so the consistency of a Pujara is still lacking, but at the same time, no one in the history of Indian cricket has made three triples. For Jadeja to do so by the age of 24, when his game has yet to fully mature, implies a potential that can be harnessed at a time when the Indian team is going through a rebuilding phase.
There are other caveats, of course. For one, the general consensus is that the quality of spin bowling in domestic cricket is on the decline. If a player bats for almost eight hours, as Jadeja did, he will necessarily face a lot of spin bowling. That has made it easier for batsmen to amass big scores. Before 2006, 18 triple-hundreds had been scored in 72 seasons. Since 2006, there have been 12 triple-hundreds. That suggests that the value of each triple is not what it used to be. But again, no one else has done what Jadeja has done.
There have also been plenty of runs scored already this season: 48,506 runs from 60 matches, according to the Mumbai Mirror, with 109 hundreds, six double-hundreds and three triples. The Rajkot pitch is also flat and easy to bat on but if the weight of runs Pujara has scored in domestic cricket counts as a point in his favour, then the same standards should be applied to Jadeja. Also all the players who have scored a triple ton in domestic cricket have gone on to play for India.
The no. 6 position has not been claimed since Sourav Ganguly retired. Neither Yuvraj Singh nor Suresh Raina have made that spot their own so there is no reason not to consider Jadeja a prospect. He averages a respectable 48.16 from 41 matches now, has the ability to turn his arm over like the other two, and is just as good a fielder as either one of them, if not better. If the selectors are looking for options at No.6, they could do a lot worse than Jadeja.