Ravindra Jadeja: A thoroughbred who found his own course

Jadeja indeed changes the complexion of the game. But his magic was in the mathematics and angles of cricket.
Last Updated : 30 June 2024, 17:50 IST

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New Delhi: In many ways, Ravindra Jadeja’s run in the just-concluded World Cup, his last T20I assignment for India, summed up his whole career – a perpetual less-than-equal partner of the star performers in the team.

In white-ball formats, the focus was always on Jasprit Bumrah and KulCha (Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal), while in Tests Ravichandran Ashwin wore the armband of the lead spinner.

He never really grumbled over it or, as is the trend these days, never put out a cryptic one-line post on his social media accounts.

Even while bringing the curtains down on his T20I stint, Jadeja was in the shadows of the icons.

Perhaps, the 35-year-old all-rounder had already made up his mind, as reported by PTI on June 28, but knew that a retirement announcement alongside Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma would end up as a mere footnote.

In the Americas too, Jadeja was a part of India's eight matches, but his contribution was sparse – 35 runs and one wicket across 14 overs.

Perhaps, he attracted more camera time during India’s victory parade at the Kensington Oval after their epochal win over South Africa in the final.

It may be that his numbers in the ultra-abridged version did not match those in other two formats.

Jadeja has played 74 T20Is, making 515 runs without ever reaching fifty and 54 wickets at an economy of 7.1. It was a tad underwhelming for a player who always prided on his ability to hustle through the overs without losing control over his own craft or over the batters.

In this World Cup, in fact, Axar Patel stamped himself as the vital cog in India’s campaign, as the left-arm spinner got more overs and a chance to bat up the order, often the schtick of Jadeja.

It was certainly not a reflection of the team management’s estimation of Jadeja’s abilities.

He perhaps, was withheld as an insurance cover for a spectacular top and middle-order collapse which eventually did not happen.

But then under Rahul Dravid, whose tenure ended with the World Cup, this Indian side’s metric to include a player in the squad was not dependent on numbers alone.

The possibilities that he brings to the table made Jadeja a near-indispensable force across the three formats.

And those possibilities were, in fact, more everyday-natured compared to others.

Kuldeep can produce those stunning balls like the one that cleaned up Babar Azam in the 2019 50-over World Cup, while Ashwin has a wowing and endless bag of tricks.

But Jadeja never really bowls those magic deliveries, but he generally does those little things correctly and relentlessly.

He hardly gives batters a breathing space, control over line and length are his forte. It made Jadeja a bankable option for the team in all conditions.

Dravid explained the rationale.

“If you look at the numbers, we look at stats, we look at data, we look at it quite a lot, and Jadeja has been exceptional.

“Our seamers are often fantastic upfront, so, the performances of people like Jaddu and Kuldeep (Yadav) have probably gone slightly unnoticed,” Dravid had said.

Jadeja, the batsman, too suffered a similar fate in the T20Is. He was often asked to bat No. 7 and it’s a tough position to come out for a batter who is not a natural hitter from ball one like Hardik Pandya.

But he could make those vital runs down the order, like he showed against England in the semifinal at Guyana.

From 146 for six, Jadeja made an unbeaten 17 off 9 balls that helped India reach a stronger 171 for seven, the foundation of their facile 68-run win.

But none really noticed it as Rohit made a fluent 57 off 39 balls.

Jadeja was economical in his three overs – giving just 16 runs away. But Axar bagged the player of the match award for his three for 23.

That was a typical Jadeja match – he did everything he was asked for but others hogged the headlines.

“As an allrounder, my role is to make an impact in tough situations. When you need the crucial 30-40 runs or when there is a partnership going on and you need a wicket. Change the game,” he had said.

Jadeja indeed changes the complexion of the game. But his magic was in the mathematics and angles of cricket.

Published 30 June 2024, 17:50 IST

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