Ravindra Jadeja was named the Player of The Match in the first Test between India and Australia in Nagpur for his eight wickets and scoring 70 runs. Jadeja’s heroics added to the aura of invincibility around the Indian team in home conditions, and once again underlined his importance in a star-studded line-up.
India’s recent success in Tests on home soil and improved performances in overseas conditions can be attributed to Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri’s aggressive style of play and the emergence of quality pacers.
However, in addition to both these factors, one of the most underrated parts has been Jadeja’s contribution as an all-rounder. At a time when fast-bowling allrounders have been in vogue, with the likes of Cameroon Green, Ben Stokes and Hardik Pandya making their presence felt, Jadeja has stood out with his spin bowling and dogged batting. It won’t be a stretch to say that he has been one of India’s most important players in Tests not just for his performances but also for the balance he brings to the team.
Balance that he brings to the table
In 61 Tests he’s played for India, Jadeja has scored 2593 runs at an average of 37.04. With the ball, he has picked up 249 wickets at an average of 24.34. His ability to aim ball after ball in the same area without giving too many loose ones away makes him virtually unplayable, especially on Indian wickets. Batting in the late middle-order the left-hander’s ability to get stuck at the crease and hold an end when he is batting with a set batter or accelerate when he is batting with the tail. In addition to these, he is also one of the finest fielders in world cricket.
Jadeja’s batting capabilities in home conditions give India the flexibility to play another spinner. The team now plays Axar Patel as the third spinner instead of going in worrying about having an extra batter. On the hand when the team travels outside the subcontinent, he gives the team the option to play four seamers, with Jaspirt Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur being the favoured combination so far.
That he bats left-handed adds balance to the team. In the current batting order, apart from Rishabh Pant and Jadeja, India does have any other left-hander. This was one of the reasons why India got bowled out for an embarrassing 36 at the Adelaide Oval in the first Test of the 2020-21 Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
In the innings, Josh Hazelwood and Pat Cummins settled into a rhythm and did not have to change their line and length, while not having to tinker with their field placements as well given all batsmen were right-handed.
Jadeja was not fit for that game and Pant was dropped. However, later in the series India made sure that they played at least one left-hander in the lineup. In England two years ago, India pushed Jadeja to number five in the batting order at times to break the monotony of the right-handers and it worked well as he could blunt the attack with his solid defence.
With Pant being unavailable for the foreseeable future, Jadeja becomes more important than ever for India tactically.
While Ravi Ashwin has been India’s go-to man in home conditions, Jadeja has been quietly going about his job. He has won the Player Of The Match award eight times in his career, of which four have come after 2017. In fact, since 2017, Jadeja batting has been averaging 52 with the bat and picked up 138 wickets. It illustrates the kind of form he has been in.
He might not be the first name in the playing 11 for India, but Jadeja surely is one of the most important figures in the team.