Ravi Shastri cast his gaze on the pristine blue waters of the Bay of Bengal in the team hotel at Visakhapatnam. Then he spoke. “The way Jaddu [Ravindra Jadeja] was batting, if you closed your eyes for a moment and opened them again, it appeared as if Sir Garry Sobers was out there.”
Deep down, the shrewd Shastri comprehended he was exaggerating — Sobers is the greatest genius the game has witnessed — but this is the manner the Indian coach lifts his men; a mind game if you like.
Particularly if the innings in question was a thrill-a-minute 77 of gorgeous yet explosive strokeplay — the protagonist was light on his feet heavy with his strokes — and under a cloud-cover, on a seaming Manchester track under the pressure of the World Cup semifinals.
From 92 for six, India nearly made it with Jadeja batting with timing and poise, power and belief, falling at the brink.
At 31, Jadeja is at the peak of his powers; bowling with control, batting with assurance and being one of the three sensational all-round fielders with Ben Stokes and Martin Guptill.
From being a foil for R. Ashwin, he has evolved as a strike bowler with control and subtle variations. With the bat, he is applying himself. Now, each time India plays a Test outside the subcontinent, there invariably is a debate about the lone spinner.
His numbers reflect his value; 1,869 runs [ave: 35.26] and 213 wickets [ave: 24.62] in 49 Tests. And his 86 not out, against England at the Oval, 2018, showcased his judgment around off-stump, adding another dimension to his batting.
He brings enterprise, dynamism and a tireless spirit forming a bond with skipper M.S. Dhoni in Chennai Super Kings.
The pitches in UAE should suit this left-armer with clever use of the crease, alterations in pace, turn and accuracy.
He operates capably to the southpaws from over-the-wicket, straightening his deliveries, has worked on his arm ball, and can surprise batsmen with bite off the wicket. He gets the ball to skid around and gives the batsmen little time between deliveries.
While his cameos of freshness and freedom have swung games, left-armer Jadeja is ace in the spin pack - he has 81 scalps in 102 IPL matches for CSK at 24.84 — along with Harbhajan’s varied off-spin and Imran Tahir’s bamboozling leg-spin.
UAE will be hot, but Jadeja could be hotter.
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