Having gate-crashed into the Indian Test team riding on two triple centuries this season, Ravindra Jadeja proved to be Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s trump card against the unsuspecting Australians.
With 24 wickets, second only to Man-of-the-series R. Ashwin (29), Jadeja contributed much more than expected. His ability to bowl left-arm spin at a faster pace than the more experienced Pragyan Ojha, made him very effective.
Jadeja’s deliveries on two-paced pitches unsettled the Australians, similar to Monty Panesar’s effort against the Indians recently. Also impressive was the consistent line Jadeja maintained — on the middle and leg stumps.
Drafted into the team at a time when the available spinners were proving ineffective against a well-prepared England team last December, an in-form Jadeja was expected to boost India’s middle-order and bowl a bit, too.
As things turned out, Jadeja removed Jonathan Trott for 43 and Kevin Pietersen for 73 before the Englishmen could do more damage in the fourth Test at Nagpur. What more, Jadeja bowled Pietersen in the second innings to walk away with three quality wickets on debut.
Jadeja added the scalps of Australian openers Ed Cowan (twice), David Warner, all-rounders Glenn Maxwell (thrice) and Moises Henriques (twice). But far more significant was Jadeja getting Michael Clarke, five times in six innings!
Batting needs spark
Jadeja, the only man in the world to score three triple-centuries in the space of 11 first class (Ranji Trophy) innings spread over 14 months, is yet to excel with the bat in Tests. In five Tests (six innings) Jadeja has scored only 97 runs. But he did impress with his knock of 43 that ensured India the first innings lead on the second day of the fourth Test here.
Known to be a good asset in limited-over cricket, Jadeja can occupy the long-vacant all-rounder’s slot in India’s middle-order in Tests. He has the patience to bat long. He is also among the better fielders in the country. Now with his bowling playing its part in tilting the scales in India’s favour in the recent series, Dhoni has an additional reason to be pleased.
The India skipper is known to favour the seven-batsman-four-bowler combination in ODIs. But in Tests, Dhoni obviously looks for five bowlers, without compromising on the batting strength. Should Jadeja maintain his form through the next few months — in the IPL, Champions Trophy, etc. — before India leaves for South Africa on its next Test assignment, he will surely be in Dhoni’s scheme of things.
“He is equal to three cricketers,” declares Jadeja’s coach Debu Mitra. “Let him go and play in England and South Africa. He has the ability to adjust to any conditions. So far, he has tried his best and succeeded.”
However, it must be remembered that once Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, among other fast bowlers nursing injuries, make themselves available for South Africa, Dhoni will obviously be tempted to swell his pace-bowling options.
Nevertheless, Jadeja, with his batting average in excess of 50 and 171 wickets in first-class cricket, holds the promise to serve the Test team for long.