It was a foregone conclusion that Ravindra Jadeja, given his high quality all-round talents, would be a linchpin in Team India. It was only a matter of time. The Man of the Series award in the just-concluded 'battle' against Australia, which India won 2-1, may be one of the many feathers in the young man’s cap in the coming years.
He has just reached the peak, if not yet the pinnacle of his prowess, of his career, and the mind boggles to imagine what he might achieve with ball and bat if he maintains his form and fitness, and continues to perform as befitting a truly gifted player like him.
More than the statistics and records, it was the manner in which Jadeja played and delivered that singled him out in the India-Australia series. It is not often that someone outshines Ravichandran Ashwin. Jadeja did precisely that. Not just once or twice, but repeatedly.
Both individually and in tandem with his more senior bowling partner, Jadeja was simply outstanding, much to the chagrin of the Aussies, who found him too difficult to handle. And yes, Jadeja has forged a lethal pair with Ashwin now, reminding many of the days when Bishan Singh Bedi and Erapalli Prasana used to create havoc from both ends.
Increasing confidence in his own genius and the faith of his captain and coach in his match-winning power has helped Jadeja soar like an eagle. Men from his community enjoy being pampered with a bit of flattery thrown in to get into the groove. Virat Kohli probably knows it well, or he must have been told this secret by Cheteshwar Pujara, who has rubbed shoulders with many such cricketers while playing for Saurashtra, and the India captain appears to have used the formula judiciously to get the best out of Jadeja.
From a traditional warrior community, Jadeja also relishes being challenged and is actually dangerous when provoked. The Australians, who had perhaps never experienced anything like this, learnt it to their own peril. They challenged and sledged Jadeja and paid the price, not just once or twice. With jadeja’s mental strength, the Aussie brand of sledging made him more determined to perform better and teach Smith and company a lesson or two, with solid performances with ball and bat.
While no one doubts Jadeja’s bowling and his ability to take wickets, there are many who still question his capability as a batsman. The fact is he is a far better batsman than what he appears to be or what his performance indicates. So far he has only offered glimpses of his class as a batsman, mostly batting down the order, letting others to steal the limelight. He bats higher up for Saurashtra and is known for plundering runs in a grand manner.
But his best with the bat, a truly big three-figure innings, may not be too far now.
Jadeja hails from Jamnagar, which has produced a string of great cricketers like K.S. Ranjitsinhji, K.S. Duleepsinhji, Vinoo Mankad and Salim Durrani, the last two being world-class allrounders. Like Mankad and Durrani, Jadeja is also a master left-arm spinner in the classical mould. But he is a better batsman than Mankad and Durrani regardless of his Test aggregate and average. He is a cleaner striker of the ball with the right footwork and almost flawless technique. He has a rich repertoire of shots, too, and he is always in a hurry to play them too soon, which often proves his undoing.
It is just that he tends to get carried away a bit with that inborn aggressive streak in his approach, as well as a dash of resultant arrogance, when looking set to play a big innings, and spoils his own masterpieces-in-the-making. Both Anil Kumble and Kohli need to advise Jadeja to curb his attacking instincts a little, keeping in mind the larger good of the team, when armed with the willow. Team India needs Jadeja’s batting just as much as his bowling. It is time he learnt to make the most his talent with the bat, too.
Once he does that, no one will stop the southpaw from becoming the world’s finest allrounder. For, besides his velvety but deceptive spin bowling and potentially good batting, Jadeja’s fielding too is simply brilliant. Bubbling with confidence and joie de vivre, Jadeja is a livewire on the field, particularly in the outfield, and few can match his athleticism and acrobatics when it comes to running after the ball and stopping the ball from crossing the boundary. And fewer still can approach him in the art of throwing or hitting the stumps accurately more often than not.
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