Ravindra Jadeja draws so much flak on Twitter, it’s not even funny. For more, follow ‘Sir Ravindra Jadeja’, a parody account. Your daily dose of laughter will be taken care of.
So let’s focus on the real Jadeja. Thirty-four of the 40 Australian wickets in the first two Tests were claimed by the spinners. That R Ashwin accounted for 18 of those wasn’t unanticipated. But 11 to Jadeja? That’s six more than what Harbhajan Singh picked up. Let’s give the devil his due.
A lot was said and written when Dhoni took a rather harsh call by dropping Pragyan Ojha for the first Test in Chennai. As is his wont, Dhoni stuck to his guns. “Australia played too many left-handers and that’s why we decided to go in with two off-spinners,” he said after the first Test, thereby justifying Harbhajan Singh’s inclusion. “We went in with Jadeja because he can bat. At least, he has got the talent. We need to persist with him but he needs to improve his batting.”
That’s a valid point. Jadeja painted an embarrassing picture by shouldering arms to a James Pattinson delivery. The Twitter world celebrated the event in some style. You can’t but believe that the same guy has three triple hundreds in first-class cricket. You can ride your luck during the course of a hundred. But a triple? Let’s give the devil his due.
For now, let’s assume Jadeja will eventually come good with the bat. Mind you, he’s in the team as an all-rounder. Dhoni is backing him on that front. “Till he gets comfortable, I will bat at No 6. Jadeja can come in at No 7,” he had said.
Let’s discuss his bowling now. Clearly, Jadeja is the third spinner in the side. Dhoni made it a point to introduce Ashwin and Bhajji well before he threw the ball to the left-arm spinner. VVS Laxman was rather uncharitable when he said on air that the skipper hadn’t backed Harbhajan enough. Well, if that was the case, he wouldn’t have been in the side.
Let’s face it: Bhajji isn’t the second-best spinner in the country by any stretch of imagination.
It’s only when Bhajji turned out to be ineffective that Dhoni turned to Jadeja. And he responded in some style by claiming the wicket of centurion Michael Clarke in the first innings in Chennai.
Jadeja’s bowling style typifies the direction spin is taking in world cricket. Probably as a result of playing too much limited-overs cricket, where the priority essentially is to restrict the flow of runs, Jadeja gives the ball a flatter trajectory. This coupled with a tight line does the trick. “That’s one of his strengths. He never gives easy runs. And that’s a big strength,” says the legendary Bishan Singh Bedi. “The kid has done well. He has bettered expectations. Also, he has a clean action.”
Jadeja doesn’t impart too many revolutions on the ball. If the pitch is aiding turn, good. If not, so be it. He’ll run through his overs quickly.
Purists would still love to see a spinner give the ball generous flight, loop and drift. Graeme Swann does that, but that’s because he is a world-class bowler who knows what length to bowl to which batsman. Most spinners who take the ‘traditional’ route these days are reduced to cannon fodder.
Another factor working in Jadeja’s favour is that he is quicker through the air. This ‘quick spin’ on wickets aiding turn — a la Monty Panesar — doesn’t give batsmen much time to react.
And his accuracy is a given. Jadeja followed up his match haul of 5/143 at an economy rate of 2.14 in Chennai with a brilliant showing in Hyderabad. The pitch wasn’t a square turner but produced beauty after beauty to expose Australia’s vulnerability to spin.
He first claimed Moises Henriques with a rare flighted delivery pitched on leg. The batsman moved forward, attempting to work it towards leg, but the ball spun across the bat face to disturb the woodwork. He then had Glenn Maxwell caught behind before castling a frustrated Clarke on 91.
Jadeja returned identical figures of 3/33 in both innings because it was his show in the second dig that took the cherry. The one that got Clarke was easily the ball of the match. In the next over, he got Ed Cowan with a classical spinner’s dismissal, having the batsman caught a first slip. And that direct hit? That’s one of the reasons he’s in the side.
Sometimes moments like those help you turn games around.
For now, Jadeja is here to stay. But like his captain said, he needs to bat well too.