"He is one of those guys who will always make something happen on the field. When he comes on to bowl, he will probably get you the breakthrough or just control the run flow straightaway. He has made a huge impact on our ODI victories," Virat Kohli said about Ravindra Jadeja in 2013.
Back then, the Saurashtra all-rounder was riding the crest of a massive wave. He had been a crucial part of India's ODI setup since his debut in 2009 and was dominating the ODI bowling charts with a No 1 ranking. But soon it started going a bit downhill for him, especially in the limited overs. The Jadeja of old rarely showed up. The rhythm was lost. Jadeja the batsman went missing. Once a mainstay, he was now lost somewhere in oblivion. The struggle was palpable and the shoulder injury didn't help.
The true warrior that he is, Jadeja battled to get back his Test spot after 14 months and then made a strong statement against South Africa at home in 2015, emerging as the second-highest wicket-taker.
He carried that momentum into the home Test series against New Zealand in September-October last year. Still, doubts lingered around his limited-overs capability, especially in the ODIs. Before the England ODI series that concluded on Sunday, the last match he played in the 50-over format was a year ago, in Australia.
He lost his ODI place after the Bangladesh series in 2015 in which he averaged 76 with the ball. Then, on the Australia tour in 2016, he had a tough time and ended up with an average of 85.66 with just three wickets from five matches. The poor form continued in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
While any lingering doubts about his Test credenials were quashed after the home series against the Kiwis, his place in the ODI team was still in doubt. He could have made his comeback in the ODI series against New Zealand, but the board decided to rest him, along with Ravichandran Ashwin, owing to a gruelling Test schedule in the months to follow.
With just three ODIs slated before the 2017 Champions Trophy, the selectors named a full strength team for England ODI series. Jadeja earned a recall to the ODI squad after 12 months. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra had made the most of his opportunity, ending up as highest wicket-taker in the New Zealand series, but Jadeja had momentum on his side after another brilliant Test series against England and was given the nod by the selectors, though Mishra was also part of the team.
This was Jadeja's path to redemption. This was his time for ODI resurrection. He played a crucial role in India's ODI series win over England, and you knew Jadeja was back in business.
While humongous scores and exciting chases brought plaudits for the batsmen, Jadeja's performance with the ball against England seems to have slipped under the radar. In the first ODI at Pune, Jason Roy and Joe Root added 69 runs for the second wicket and it was looking all too easy for the duo, before Jadeja provided the much-needed breakthrough of the dangerous Roy. Astute change of length foxed the England opener who charged down the track and tried to adjust at the last minute but missed and was stumped.
One of England's biggest frailties was their batting in the middle overs and that was mainly because of the choke applied by Jadeja with his disciplined bowling. The England batsmen quite simply found the Saurashtra all-rounder difficult to get away. The visitors posted 350 and India chased down the total with 11 balls to spare. However, what stood out was that in a 706-run game, Jadeja ended with figures of 10-0-50-1 with 4.4 overs worth of dot balls. Ashwin went wicketless, while England's Adil Rashid was tonked for 50 from five and Moeen Ali returned an econony of 7.78.
Then, in the second ODI at Cuttack, Jadeja warmed up with a breezy 16 off eight balls as India posted a mammoth 381. And when it was India's turn to bowl, Jadeja was introduced in the 11th over, with Roy and Root looking good again. He applied the brakes on the scoring which in turn built up pressure and helped Ashwin scalp the wicket of Root.
Jadeja bowled non-stop for eight overs giving away just 39. Roy finally gave in to the pressure as he missed a dab off an arm ball from Jadeja which rattled his stumps. Ashwin reaped the benefits of Jadeja's discipline as he ended with three wickets. Jadeja bowled ten overs at a stretch and was bowled out by the 29th over.
England captain Eoin Morgan then went berserk and nearly pulled off a spectacular win. In a match where 747 runs were scored, Jadeja finished with figures of 10-0-45-1 with four overs worth of dot balls. Every other Indian bowler conceded over six runs an over.
"Jaddu is very, very economical in terms of what he bowls," said Ashwin – Jadeja's spin twin – after the match. "In terms of his line and length, he doesn't give too much away. That's what he always does. You can expect that kind of performance from him all through the day. That also gives me the allowance to go for the wickets now and then," he added.
In the third ODI at the Eden Gardens, openers Sam Billings and Roy had seen off a tricky period at the start of the innings and slowly accelerated to 97 from 17 overs. Kohli had tried Yuvraj Singh before Ashwin and Jadeja, but to no avail. Jadeja went for 11 in his first over which included a six by Roy.
India needed a wicket at this moment and the crisis man was again to their rescue as Jadeja sent Billings back to the hut in his second over and then had his man - the ominous looking Roy - in his next over. Jadeja bowled a skidder and rattled Roy's stumps again, which pegged England back after a solid start. While Hardik Pandya was the standout bowler with 3/49 from 10 overs, Jadeja had played a crucial role in restricting England to 321, ending with figures of 10-0-62-2, with two wickets.
On flat and bouncy pitches with minimal assistance for turn, Jadeja ended up as the second-highest wicket-taker for India, and had the second-best average of 39.25. What stood out was his immaculate control of length. He had the number of the in-form and dangerous Roy in all three ODIs.
In a series which saw 2,090 runs scored - the highest ever in an ODI series of three or fewer matches - with an average economy rate of 6.85, which is the second-worst in a bilateral series, Jadeja ended up as the most economical bowler at 5.23 runs an over. The only bowler with an economy rate under six. Jadeja on turning wickets can be a fire-breathing dragon while Jadeja on non-turning wickets can be a silent killer.
From being typecast as the debonair sidekick to Ashwin, Jadeja had transformed into the chief protagonist in the England series.
India's next 50-over assignment will be the Champions Trophy in England. This performance against England would have surely raised his stocks in the spin department. What instills more confidence in Jadeja is the fact that he is the second-highest wicket-taker for India (23 wickets) on English soil, with the third-best average of 20.85 (for bowlers who have bowled at least 100 overs). In the 2013 Champions Trophy, he was the highest wicket-taker with 12 wickets at 12.83. In conditions favourable for pacers, Jadeja will be a vital cog in India's wheel.
"A man remains the same, only his time changes," Jadeja said after making a comeback into the Test side two years ago. Well, good times are back again for Jadeja it seems.
Updated Date: Jan 24, 2017 11:04:42 IST