It was a day that was defined by Ravindra Jadeja’s genius as much as it was by Steve Smith’s brilliance. On an SCG track that seemed tailor-made for batting, Australia were bowled out for 338 as India, for a change, made short work of the opposition tail.
Smith worked his way to a 27th Test century in what was a characteristically gritty knock. But as far as India were concerned, the star of the show was Jadeja, who only bowled three overs on the rain-affected Day 1, but came back strongly on Day 2 to claim 4/62 and effect the run out of Smith as well.
India started the day off with Jadeja and not Ashwin in a move that surprised many and the left-arm spinner did not disappoint. He was very accurate to begin the day and gave little away even as Marnus Labuschagne and Smith worked their way back into the innings.
Perhaps Rahane reckoned that on a slowish wicket, Jadeja’s slightly quicker natural pace might have a higher chance of forcing a mistake out of the batsmen as compared to Ashwin. That early show of confidence helped Jadeja find his feet quickly.
He struck first to send back the well set Labuschagne (91) with a delivery that kept going straight on with the arm. Wade tried to be too aggressive, jumped out of his crease too early and Jadeja got the leading edge out of him. And finally, yorkers (if one can call them that) accounted for Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon.
And then, as if to show that he wasn’t done, he sent back Smith with a direct hit to end the Australian innings. The statisticians won’t list it as a five-wicket haul but for all other purposes, it probably was.
On Day 1: Jadeja 3-2-2-0
On Day 2: Jadeja 15-1-60-4 and the Steve Smith run out.
The important bit though was that for the second match running, Jadeja is showing that India’s ‘away’ allrounder doesn’t need to bowl pace. There wasn’t much in the wicket for spinners, but just like Ashwin, Jadeja is figuring out how to bowl away from home as well.
For the longest time, though, Jadeja wasn’t quite doing justice to his talent. Everyone knew he could bat too but he seemed to have been sold on the idea of being only a bowler in Tests. However, that changed in July 2019.
A push in the right direction
Every time Jadeja does well, social media invariably sends some scorn Sanjay Manjrekar’s way. The former India cricketer, who doubles up as a commentator, while talking about India’s ODI cricket set-up said he wasn’t a big fan of bits and pieces cricketers.
“I am not a big fan of bits and pieces players which Jadeja is at this point of his career in 50-over cricket. In Test matches, he is a pure bowler. But in 50-over cricket, I would rather have a batsman and a spinner,” Manjrekar was quoted as saying by IANS.
The remarks kicked up a shitstorm of their own which included Jadeja himself drawing Manjrekar’s notice to the number of matches he had already played.
A lot was said then and it has continued in the same vein since, regardless of the format in which Jadeja does well despite Manjrekar putting up frequent reminders that his comments were only for ODI cricket.
But perhaps India owes Manjrekar a debt of gratitude as well. By calling it as he saw it, he lit a fire inside Jadeja and that has had a clear impact on the manner in which he has approached his game not only in ODIs but in Test cricket as well.
The allrounder from Saurashtra set about working on his batting with a determination that was perhaps lacking earlier and in doing so, he has had a positive effect on all other aspects on his game as well.
The Manjrekar comments were made on July 1, 2019, since then, here’s a look at Jadeja’s performances across formats:
|Mat||Runs||Bat Ave||Wkts||Bowl Ave||Ave Diff|
|Since Jul, 2019||10||441||55.12||28||28.67||26.44|
|Mat||Runs||Bat Ave||Wkts||Bowl Ave||Ave Diff|
|Since Jul, 2019||17||376||62.66||14||55.64||7.02|
|Mat||Runs||HS||Bat Ave||Wkts||BBI||Bowl Ave||Ave Diff|
|Since Jul, 2019||10||101||44*||50.50||8||2/18||21.12||29.37|
A true allrounder
While watching Jadeja in the second Test and checking out his allround numbers since 2016, Glenn McGrath couldn’t quite figure out why Jadeja wasn’t the first name put down by Kohli for the playing XI. In the said period, Jadeja has averaged 45.40 with the bat and 24.57 with the ball – numbers that are better than Ben Stokes (42.34 with the bat and 27.59 with the ball) or Shakib Al Hasan (38.48 with the bat and 26.03 with the ball).
So even while India wait for Hardik Pandya, their pace-bowling allrounder, to start bowling again, Jadeja has shown enough to show that he doesn’t necessarily have to sit out once the former is fit.
Rather, the onus now has to be on Pandya to raise his bowling to a level where he can be called upon to bowl more than just the 10-odd overs in an innings. At the same time, Jadeja needs to ensure that his batting level doesn’t drop.
As he is now, Jadeja has managed to lend India a vital balance, and isn’t that what allrounders must do? He is starting to become the kind of player who can make the difference with both ball and bat. It is a huge step forward and given his success over the past few years, there is no reason to believe that he can’t maintain the same trajectory for the next few years.
Jadeja is now expected to perform well at home but it is performances, like the one we saw on Day 2 at Sydney, that will truly raise his confidence and his stature in world cricket.