“You’ve asked the right question: I would like to dedicate this century to my brother-in-law, who has been requesting me to score a century and take his name on camera.”

For his role in the Indian team over the last decade, Ravindra Jadeja isn’t expected to score big hundreds as long as his cameos are appropriate for the finishing touches the innings needs or to consolidate on the platform given by the top-order batters. Yet, in the first Test against Sri Lanka here on Saturday, he showed that he was capable of these types of innings (175 not out), too, a testament to his versatility. Jadeja’s top score before this innings was a 100 not out scored in familiar Rajkot against West Indies in 2018, and he has 17 half-centuries under his belt, six of them unbeaten innings.

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So when he dedicated his ton to his brother-in-law, it felt as if a weight had lifted off his shoulders. Centuries are always special, and it had been 57 Tests across nine years for a single one until this one. R. Ashwin, who plays a similar role in the team, has, after all, five Test tons.

Jadeja knew it wasn’t prudent to start hitting from ball one, and laid anchor, like a top-order batter must do. He would put away only short deliveries off the spinners – Embuldeniya and Dhananjaya de Silva – score the odd boundary, and for a long time in the morning session, the humdrum proceedings were soporific even though runs didn’t come in a trickle. Both Jadeja and Ashwin waited for the ball to come to them, with only Ashwin’s occasional drives providing some comfort to wearied eyes.

Top-order batters, including Virat Kohli, had adopted a similar approach on day one, but none of them converted their starts to big scores. Although Sri Lanka was a bowler short – fast bowler Lahiru Kumara had a hamstring tear – it wasn’t clear that Jadeja, known more for his short cameos, wouldn’t depart fairly soon.

But he had a surprise in store for onlookers as he rallied with the tail to plunder the bowling in spectacular fashion in the afternoon even though, as he admitted later on, the pitch had started to turn and the odd ball was staying low. Rishabh Pant’s innings of 96 was, of course, a better spectacle and a prettier one to watch, but in effect, Jadeja’s 175 (unbeaten) wasn’t far behind. With bat and ball, Jadeja just keeps reminding the stakeholders of Indian cricket that he may not appear as exquisite and enthralling as some of the other cricketers, but he is as valuable as the rest of them.

Jadeja laid out his mantra in simple terms to mediapersons: a desire to improve every game. And that means to add those extra dimensions to his game, and not just fulfill his roles. With his innings today, he ticked off another box.