Dharmendrasinh Jadeja’s mental preparation begins months before a domestic cricket season gets underway. While he works on his fitness and his bowling, the left-arm spinner also sets himself a target of bagging ‘at least 40 to 45’ wickets a season.
And as the red-ball season gets closer, Jadeja keeps wondering “ Iss bar kitna five-wicket haul hoga? (How many wickets will I pick this time?)” Just like any other bowler, he, too, dreams of topping the list of highest wicket-takers. And five-fors are always like the cherry on top.
So, quite evidently, the 32-year-old had a broad smile on his face when he dismissed Punjab’s Baltej Singh in a Ranji Trophy quarterfinal clash on Thursday afternoon. After all, it was his 17th five-wicket haul in First Class cricket and Jadeja wanted to bask in the glory.
“Getting a five-for was difficult for me this year. It was difficult for me. It actually took me eight games this season to claim the first fifer, so I am happy it finally happened. I am happier because it came at home,” Jadeja told Sportstar.
With Ravindra Jadeja away on national duty, the left-arm spinner has been Saurashtra’s lead bowler over the years and this time too, he has claimed 34 wickets in 13 innings and with Punjab’s second essay remaining, the number could go up further.
“Punjab batted well initially, but we could pull things back. The idea was to keep it stump-to-stump and restrict their flow of runs. That way, we had more chances of claiming wickets,” he said, adding: “When we were bowling initially, the wicket did not have much in it. But later on in the day, it did help a bit but earlier it was a challenge for us. I am glad that I could claim those wickets.”
Knowing the Rajkot wicket like the back of his hand, Jadeja believes if Saurashtra can manage about 300 runs in the second innings, it will be a ‘huge challenge’ for the Punjab batters to chase that on the fourth or fifth day.
“Now, the ball is coming nicely onto the bat. One good partnership can actually turn things around. But eventually as the day progresses, it will start turning and help the spinners. We need to make the most of it,” he said.
In the last few games, Jadeja has had two four-wicket hauls - one against Mumbai, another against Hyderabad - and four three-wicket outings, but he had to wait for two months to get a five-for. “You end up claiming three or four wickets regularly, but one needs to wait for the fifer. When it doesn’t come, it takes a lot of time to reach that magic figure,” Jadeja said. “This wicket did not help much, but I was glad to take things in my stride and take five wickets on this surface.”
In the last edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), he was one of the net bowlers for Punjab Kings and got an opportunity to interact with Anil Kumble, who back then, was the head coach of the team. “I got to learn a lot from Kumble sir and also, I got a chance to speak to Ravindra bhai (Ravindra Jadeja) and discuss a few things and those lessons helped me prepare better for the season,” he said, adding with a smile, “This year, I had set a goal of claiming 40-45 wickets.”
Ravindra told him to bowl a bit faster on turning tracks and hit the right spot and those tips have helped him immensely. “I would like to put my best foot forward. Getting selected for the Indian team is not in my hands, but whatever opportunities I get, I want to make them count for my team.”
Over the last few years, Jaydev Unadkat has been Saurashtra’s captain and under his leadership, quite a few players - including Jadeja - have excelled. But this time around, with Unadkat missing out on most of the season due to international commitments, his absence could be felt. “Over the last two-three years, Jaydev has bowled really well and this time, I feel, that we are missing his presence. Had he been around, the batters would not have been able to score so easily. It was sort of a challenge in JD’s absence,” he said.
In the previous editions, a five-for seemed to be a regular affair for Jadeja, but this time, he had to work hard for his maiden five-wicket haul of the season. And at home, Jadeja is happy to have earned it!
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