By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Hundreds and five-fors often steal the thunder. And in the bargain critical performances which have a positive impact on the outcome of the game, does not get the attention and acknowledgement it deserves. In the ongoing series between India and Australia, Ravindra Jadeja has tormented Michael Clarke — Australia’s lone sentinel in their tour of crisis and widely acknowledged as the best batsman presently in world cricket — to steal the advantage for India.
If India have won this series in resounding fashion, a lot of the credit has to go to Jadeja’s bowling. The left-arm spinner has consistently outsmarted Clarke in the series to destroy Australia’s game plan and their batting lynchpin. India’s winning margins wouldn’t have been very convincing had Clarke gone on to pile huge scores as he has done in recent months. The Australian captain has been castled by Jadeja’s copious variations and fantastic accuracy. That has allowed the bowlers at the other end to mount pressure on the Aussie batsmen.
In the six innings thus far in the series, Jadeja has accounted for Clarke’s wicket five times to emphatically underline his domination over the classy Australian. Clarke has been bowled and caught twice each and stumped once. Apart from the first innings at Chennai — where Clarke was trying to up the ante and was caught in the deep — he has been done in by Jadeja on the other occasions. The dismissal that stood out was the stumping at Mohali. With his team in crisis, the captain promoted himself to No 3 in the first innings. Jadeja’s tossed one a little and drew Clarke outside the crease. Clarke misread it completely as the ball beat the bat for Mahendra Singh Dhoni to do the rest.
To trick a batsman of Clarke’s calibre speaks volumes of Jadeja’s growth as a bowler. Many felt that his bowling was more suited to the one-day formats as he relied more on accuracy and fired them on occasions. However, he has looked a different bowler in this series. He is ready to give the ball copious air, and there is a better loop to his deliveries to go with nagging accuracy.
Jadeja is the kind of a bowler who doesn’t usually turn the ball a lot. But, there have been occasions in this series when he has purchased copious turn to germinate doubts in the batsmen’s minds. There are a few that turn, while the others go straight through. As a result, the batsmen have been dismissed either playing for the turn or one that maintains its line.
In many ways, the Clarke-Jadeja duel brings back memories of the Ricky Ponting-Harbhajan Singh contest of the 2001 series. In that remarkable face-off, Harbhajan Singh dismissed Ponting five times in three matches to torment him throughout the tour. While Clarke has been scoring runs on this sojourn, Ponting was almost struggling to get the ball off the square then. Back then, there was an off-spinner making a comeback and eager to make a statement. This time, it is a tyro trying to prove his credentials for the longer format.
Jadeja’s has one more Test to trouble Clarke and perhaps better Harbhajan’s feat of tormenting Ponting in 2001. However, Clarke would be a determined man and would want to change the equation if he recovers from his back problem to play the last Test at Delhi.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_