India vs England: Rejuvenated Ravindra Jadeja wields his sword with elan to prove he is the all-rounder visitors need

For a batsman that loves to feel the ball on the willow, Jadeja curbed his natural instincts and overpowered his mind when his team needed him the most.

Gaurav Joshi, September 10, 2018

Ravindra Jadeja had just cut Moeen Ali to the point boundary to reach his half-century. Members of the Bharat Army in the Western Stand immediately reached for their smartphones to record the sword-wielding celebration. Jadeja finally gave the crowd exactly what they wanted, but for once it was his actions on either side of the customary swordplay that echoed his message to the public.

India's Ravindra Jadeja celebrates after reaching his fifty during play on the third day of the fifth Test. AFP

India's Ravindra Jadeja celebrates after reaching his fifty during play on the third day of the fifth Test. AFP

At first, he brushed off his bat as if to say that despite not been utilised for a while, the willow remained as potent as ever.  He then pointed towards the Indian badge and the Test number on his shirt.  It was pretty evident what Jadeja meant.  He was telling the cricketing fraternity that he belongs to the Test arena and always has. It was just the fact that the team management had woken up a tad too late and they had missed the chance to back him when the series was still alive.

At the end of the day's play England assistant coach, Paul Farbrace echoed Jadeja's thoughts by saying "He is a player with enormous ability and it's probably good for us that he is playing his first Test of the series," he said.

On Sunday, Jadeja arguably played the best inning of his 37 Test match career and in the process, he showed that he had the game to excel on foreign pitches. A day earlier he had proved his skills with the ball on a surface that offered him very little to still finish with four wickets.

The best feature about his unbeaten knock of 86 was the manner in which he left the ball with precision. Even the likes of Shikar Dhawan and KL Rahul had struggled to gauge their off-stumps, but Jadeja's knew exactly what he was doing. He left on line and length. Few balls sailed over the stumps, but that didn't affect his mindset.

For a batsman that loves to feel the ball on the willow, Jadeja curbed his natural instincts and overpowered his mind when his team needed him the most.  In the first hour, he had left alone 26 out of the 36 balls, a tactic that frustrated even the best in the business in Stuart Broad and James Anderson.  Without using his willow, he had forced the England openers to conjure up new strategies. Even balls that the Indian top order would have flirted with, he had no problems leaving alone.

Throughout the opening session, he resisted the temptation to drive. He would eventually get some gentle offerings on his pads to kick-start his scoring. Then out came the fierce cut and some glorious back foot punches as he provided the Indian late order with some sting.

For a while now Jadeja has been touted as a sub-continent specialist. There have been doubts over his ability to take wickets and score runs on seaming conditions. He has never been considered as an all-rounder outside of Asia. Ravichandran Ashwin and Hardik Pandya had always been the given first crack, but a breakdown of Jadeja's numbers reveals a different story.

Playing outside of Asia and excluding the West Indies, Ashwin, and Jadeja both average 29 with the bat. And while both have a modest bowling record in those respective countries, Jadeja is, in fact, has a better bowling average with 23 wickets at 40.91 compared to Ashwin's 42 wickets at 46.02.

This is not to say the pair could not work together, but such has been the infatuation with Pandya that India has almost dismissed the option of playing both Jadeja and Ashwin in the playing XI. The conditions might have been seamer friendly, but such as been the potency in Indian seamers that they could have easily experimented with playing both spinners.

Pandya's has not lived up to his reputation as a batting all-rounder. He has struggled to cope with the swinging and seaming ball if anything Jadeja has looked the most accomplished out of all the three perseverance all-rounders.  It might be just one inning, but Jadeja has shown he has the ability with the bat.

One aspect that Jadeja has over Ashwin is his ability to bat with the tail. He can up the tempo with some expansive shots and string a few good partnerships. Then there is his running between the wickets. He can convert singles into two's and two's into three's. Over time Jadeja has learnt how to build an innings and be a real threat down the order. He also has the ability to switch gears, as he showed while batting with Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah.

Then there is his bowling. While Ashwin has a constant nag for experimentation, Jadeja likes to keep it nice and simple. On a pitch that does not aid turn, he understands his role and plays it to perfection. After his four-wicket haul in the first innings, he said "My role to bowl to the field and not give away boundaries.  I understand on such pitches it is important for me to control the runs while the fast bowlers attack."

It seems everyone from Jadeja himself to the members of the England setup is aware of his abilities as an all-rounder. It is rather disappointing that the Indian team management did not bank on Jadeja when the series was up for grabs, perhaps the innings he played on Sunday is an indication that apart from Pandya and Ashwin, there is another all-rounder that warrants a place in the playing XI.

Updated Date: Sep 10, 2018

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