Jadeja, a champion all-rounder in the making

Ravindra Jadeja has the profile of an all-rounder. He has the ability to pick wickets regularly, can bat more than usefully and qualifies to be among the world’s best fielders.

Ravindra Jadeja, who made a comeback by returning huge hauls on under-prepared pitches in Rajkot, is a champion when it comes to bowling on surfaces that are not true in bounce.   -  AP

When Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh bowled in tandem, the Indian attack looked really potent. Kumble would create the pressure for Harbhajan to capitalise upon. The departure of these stalwarts created a void, which R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are striving to fill. They may have a long way to go, but their effort has to be recognised.

Ashwin is the established bowler in a scheme where the emphasis on spin is obvious. India has experimented with the pace attack, but these spinners have remained an integral part of the planning. Ashwin and Jadeja complement each other well and have the ability to pick wickets regularly.

Jadeja also has the profile of an all-rounder. He can bat more than usefully and qualifies to be rated among the world’s best fielders. Ashwin, apart from his undoubted bowling skills, is an accomplished batsman too and the duo is contributing handsomely.The left-arm spinner from Saurashtra, who made a comeback by returning huge hauls on under-prepared pitches in Rajkot, is a champion when it comes to bowling on surfaces which are not true in bounce. At various times he has confessed to having gained a lot from the pitches in Rajkot, which were designed to help him.

 

“There is no mystery. We didn’t have very well prepared grounds (in Rajkot) and those are the kinds I’ve been brought up on, the kinds where there were no groundsmen and we were just practising. So, having played on such pitches, I’ve got an idea of how to bowl, which areas to bowl on, what speed to bowl at,” Jadeja has said. But his success outside his home venue confirms that he can serve the team long.

It is well known that M. S. Dhoni backed Jadeja to play all the three formats, but Virat Kohli’s encouragement has been crucial to the left-arm spinner taking the field with far more confidence. Especially, in Test cricket.

Kohli analysed it well, “I think he used to think too much about Test cricket being too difficult and him having to play differently. I think there are different ways of playing and he certainly has a different way of playing cricket which we feel he shouldn’t change. Obviously, he will gain experience and we come to a situation where we have to play out a session to save a Test match, he will gain that skill as well. I think he needs to get confident and that can only happen by scoring more runs. The other skills will keep adding on at this level.

“He’s feeling more confident about himself, about his contribution. There’s an assurance from the team management to make him feel confident about his batting by giving him confidence at the nets, giving him practice games.

“If you make the 60s, 70s and 80s regularly, you start remembering how you did it. Just small targets we discussed with him, and he’s responded in a really big way. I’m happy with the way that he’s contributing with the bat because I felt he always had the skills. It’s just about working harder and making sure the team benefits from the skills. I hope he can keep continuing.”

Old-timers may be surprised with Jadeja scalping batsmen in Test cricket, but it is a reward for his reading of the game. He can plot the exits of batsmen and the dismissal of Luke Ronchi at Kanpur was an ideal example. He lured the New Zealander into playing the slog-sweep and held the ball back just a bit to extract a mishit. Obviously, Ronchi would rue the stroke, but the delight that Jadeja displayed was an indication of the planning that had gone into the dismissal.

Jadeja is not a typical left-arm spinner. But he is learning fast and with Ashwin as his partner appears to have filled the role of the second spinner adequately. What gives Jadeja the added edge is his ability to score runs in the lower half.

With Ashwin and Jadeja as the key bowlers, India can emerge as one of the stronger teams in Test cricket. The confidence that Jadeja brings to the middle is the most significant feature of his cricket.