Ravindra Jadeja put in an immense shift to help India level the Test series against Australia with an emphatic win in Melbourne, continuing his good run of form on the tour. Sankalp Srivastava argues why the all-rounder should be indispensable across formats.
Ravindra Jadeja arrived in Australia on the back of a stunning IPL with the bat, thus forcing his way into both of India’s limited-overs sides. He emerged from the white-ball leg of the tour as a crucial component of a side in desperate need of all-round options, especially with Hardik Pandya’s current inability to bowl.
Subsequently, the 32-year-old slotted in perfectly at number seven in the Melbourne Test, putting in a match-defining all-round performance. Having Jadeja at seven provides India with supreme balance and allows them to have a specialist fifth bowling option at their disposal while also increasing the batting depth. Umesh Yadav’s absence in the second innings was hardly felt or even commented upon, with Jadeja’s presence making up for India being a bowler light.
Rahane and the team management recognised what he could bring to the team, thus making the bold decision of bringing him in the spot vacated by Virat Kohli. “He is a genuine all-rounder,” Ravi Shastri, India head coach, said of Jadeja after the Boxing Day Test. “That is why he bats where he is. He can bat at 6, he can bat at 5 if need be on a given occasion. But he is a genuine, genuine all-rounder. That’s why he lends a lot of balance to the side.
“Also when you play overseas there is a chance of one of the bowlers getting injured, like you saw with Umesh. With Jadeja there, it gives better balance and it also gives fast bowlers some respite with Jaddu and Ashwin doing the bowling.”
Is Jadeja really a ‘genuine’ all-rounder?
Indian batsmen with a better Test batting average than Ravindra Jadeja since 2018:
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) December 28, 2020
Over the last four years, Jadejas’s Test batting has improved in leaps and bounds. Since England’s 2016/17 tour of India, Jadeja has scored 1,302 Test runs at 46.50. Only Kohli has scored more runs for India at a better average in that time. His only ton, along with 13 of his 15 Test fifties – including the one in Melbourne – have come in that period.
The one argument used against Jadeja’s Test batting in recent times has been his failure to put a price on his wicket. In Melbourne, however, he curbed his natural instincts and took 159 deliveries to score 57 runs. He also constructed a crucial 121-run partnership with Rahane, which proved to be pivotal in the result. This showed that he has worked on altering his approach based on the situation.
“It’s been a very good innings, no question about it,” Tom Moody, former Australia all-rounder, told ESPNCricinfo. “The most impressive thing for me throughout the whole innings was his robust defence. And to me, that is an area, if I was looking at Jadeja, in the rear-view mirror, and what he’s done previously is shown vulnerability from a defensive point of view.
“To me, he showed great composure in defence. He also showed that he had the ability to play the long game in the sense that he was prepared to be patient and let the ball go well. And there was an enormous amount of maturity. Does he fit in the side with Pant and him at 6 and 7? He certainly does. That’s a good enough top seven for me in Test cricket, if he’s playing with that type of maturity.”
Jadeja has always been a massive contributor with the ball, especially back home. 157 of his 216 Test wickets have come in India at an average of 21.06 as compared to his overall average of 24.48. Seven of his nine five-wicket hauls have come in spin-friendly conditions at home. But that doesn’t tell the full story.
Test cricketers to have both scored more runs and taken more wickets with better averages than Ravindra Jadeja:
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) December 28, 2020
Even considering that the left-hander brings out his best at home, he still has the second-best bowling average among Indians with 30-plus Test wickets, after Jasprit Bumrah. Any player with such numbers qualifies as one of the best all-rounders around, but seldom does Jadeja’s name come up in any such debate.
His recent white-ball form with the bat has been brilliant, especially since his counter-attacking 77-run knock in the 2019 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand. In ODIs, he has averaged 62.60 since that competition. Jadeja’s IPL 2020 outing has also strengthened his case for an extended run in India’s T20I team. Though his bowling has not been as impactful, with the T20 World Cup coming up, India are in desperate need of an all-rounder who can bat between five and seven. Jadeja seems to be the answer.
The 32-year-old also adds invaluable experience to a relatively young India T20I side. For the foreseeable future, and at least as long as Pandya isn’t fit to bowl his full quota, the veteran all-rounder – the only cricketer other than Kohli and MS Dhoni to have represented India in at least 50 matches across formats – has made himself indispensable with recent performances.
Ravindra Jadeja’s last six T20 innings:
44* (23) – today
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) December 4, 2020
Jadeja is a confidence player and that confidence seems to be at an all-time high right now. It would only be logical for the team management to make him India’s permanent number seven across formats and make the most out of a career which seems destined for something special.