It is a good time to be Ravindra Jadeja. He is the top ranked one-day bowler in the world, has become so indispensable to India that they cannot rest him even for a dead rubber, developed a cult following on social media – where he has become Sir Ravindra Jadeja – and grown an impressive moustache to rival Shikar Dhawan, the country’s other golden boy in 2013.
Jadeja’s numbers this year put him among the best ODI bowlers of all time. He averages 18.86, has a strike-rate of 29.9 and an economy rate of 3.78. Before 2013, he boasted of an average of 38.42, a strike-rate of 46.2 and an economy rate of 4.98. By the numbers, he has turned himself from Samit Patel into Joel Garner in just seven months. It is a staggering improvement by any means.
Watching Jadeja bowl doesn’t give you the impression that he is such a destructive force. He is not a classical spinner, or a pretty one. There is no beguiling loop, no sweet flight to tempt the batsmen into a rash stroke. Shane Warne stalked his way to the bowling crease; the batsmen his wary prey. Jadeja ambles in and fires the ball at the batsmen like a machine gun.
“He is relentless,” Murali Karthik, the India left-arm spinner,” told Firstpost. “He is impecabble with his line and length. He doesn’t try and beat batsmen in the air. He beats people off the pitch.”
“He sticks to his strengths and that has worked really well for him.”
Jadeja does have sutble variations in pace and also uses the width of the crease to alter the angle at which he comes at the batsmen. But he doesn’t set up a batsman up like a spinner traditional does because even he doesn’t know what the ball is going to do off the pitch.
The reason why the ball turns sometimes and not others, Karthik said, is because Jadeja
bowls with a round arm action and manages to land the ball half on the seam and half on the leather. Depending on how the ball hits the pitch, it either goes straight on or it bites the surface and turns. This also happens to work to his advantage
“If he doesn’t realise if the ball is going to turn or not, how can the batsman?,” Karthik said.
The other big plus Jadeja possesses is the support of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Spinners need their captains to have their back more than fast bowlers because a batsman can get after them. Knowing you captain will not yank you out of the attack the moment you leak a few runs is “half the battle” and you can just focus on your bowling, Karthik said.
The speed with which Jadeja bowls and his flattish trajectory also take away a batsman’s best offense against spin – his feet. “He doesn’t give people the time to come at him,” Karthik said. But this will pose challenges on flat surfaces that don’t help the spinners.
One of the big advantages Jadeja has had this season has been pitches which have crumbled at the top. That allows the ball to grip the surface and gives him bite off the pitch. Without it, Karthik, said he will struggle to get turn. “Where there is no grip, that is when spinners have to give the ball air.”
This is also when Jadeja’s round-arm action restricts him. Karthik explained that it is easier to combine flight and control with a high-arm action such as Harbhajan Singh's. If Jadeja were to try and flight the ball to get turn, he would lose the accuracy that has made him so potent.
For the same reason, Karthik said, Jadeja is is not going to be a frontline bowler in Test cricket in foreign conditions. "He doesn’t have to become classical though," Karthik said, because he has such good control, he can still be the stock bowler that every captain needs to tie up one end in Tests. He can also bat – his two Ranji Trophy triple centuries the reason he was picked against England – so he has more to offer the team than just wickets.
According to Karthik, Jadeja will never become Bishen Singh Bedi. But India won’t mind that because he already is Sir Ravindra Jadeja. And in 2013, that has been more than enough.