Ravindra Jadeja.....All his 50-plus scores have come when India have been in a spot of bother with plenty of overs to go and too many wickets lost © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Ravindra Jadeja’s belligerent all-round performance at The Oval in the third One-Day International (ODI) was a critic-silencing act. His call-up as a replacement for an opening batsman was widely criticised, but he responded positively where it matters the most – on the field of play. He walked in when India were in the dumps at 58 for five and he showed good application and temperament as he stitched a crucial partnership with Mahendra Singh Dhoni.  As India looked to defend a competitive score, his spell of two for 42 was instrumental in keeping India’s hopes alive. India have been searching for an all-rounder for years and if Jadeja’s performance at The Oval is anything to go by, the said search may not last long.

 

When Jadeja made his debut for India in 2009, he came in with a lot of promise as a good left- arm spinner and a competitive batsman. However, as the months progressed, he impressed with the ball, but was a huge disappointment with the bat. There were the odd flashes of brilliance with the bat, but they were not enough to convince the selectors of his all-round ability. In quite a few pressure situations he looked very nervous with the bat and that affected the ultimate result. However, his bowling was impressive as he could contain the batsmen and also pick up a few wickets. Thus, when he was dropped it was more because of his failure with the bat and had nothing to do with his bowling.

 

Jadeja’s performance at The Oval is just a continuation of the positive signs he displayed during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2011. During the IPL, he looked fitter and stronger which had a positive bearing on his batting. He didn’t hesitate in playing the aggressive shots, something that was missing when he had earlier worn India colors. It was evident that he used the time away from the Indian team to work on his weak areas which had led to his ouster from the national set-up. The way Jadeja performed in the IPL should have got him a berth in the ODI team to the West Indies. But, as they say, “better late than never.”

 

It is never easy when you walk into a situation with your side five down with not many on the board. To add to that, Jadeja had arrived in England just a day prior to the game which meant that there was no time for any adjustment or conditioning. He just had to get off the plane and get on to the field in the blues. When he walked in, the England bowlers had their tails up and were getting some help off the wicket. He showed good application by playing with a straight bat early on and attacked once he had spent sufficient time in the middle.

 

The biggest positive about his knock was his foot movement. He looked more assured in his footwork than his earlier stint with the Indian team. The ball was moving around but he didn’t show any signs of tentativeness which the batsmen before him were guilty of. When you consider the entire scenario, the innings was a sign of his evolution and his strong temperament.

 

It is interesting to note that all of Jadeja’s fifties have come in losing causes. The plot thickens when one sees that there is a pattern to the match situations whenever he has scored 50 or more. All his 50+ scores have come when India have been in a spot of bother with plenty of overs to go and too many wickets lost.

 

Here is a list of his fifties with their respective strike-rates and the score when he walked out to bat:

 

Innings

Versus

Score on arrival

Strike rate

60 (77 balls)*

Sri Lanka

138-6 (25.1 overs)

77.92

57 (103 balls)

Australia

27-5 (9 overs)

55.33

61 (61 balls)

Zimbabwe

128-4 (30 overs)

100.00

51 (72 balls)

Zimbabwe

92-4 (26.4 overs)

70.83

78 (89 balls)

England

58-5 (19 overs)

87.64

 

*on debut

 

If one excludes the knock of 61 against Zimbabwe, his knock at The Oval has the best strike rate of the lot. What it indicates is that he is more confident now and his approach is positive. In the other knocks, he came in at similar situations with plenty of overs left, but got bogged down by playing too many dots. At The Oval, he was looking to rotate strike and keep the scoreboard ticking. Once a batsmen plays in that manner, it certainly eases him in the middle and makes things tougher for the fielding side. Thus, considering his improvement as a batsman, it is only a matter of time before a fifty gets him on the right side of the equation.

 

However, Jadeja’s next test will come while chasing a target with the required rate over run a ball. Such situations can be very tricky for a No 7 batsman, and if Jadeja can handle it well then he will complete his transformation as a batsman.

 

Jadeja’s evolution is not restricted to the bat as his bowling was a lot better. Earlier he would bowl too many quicker ones and rarely give the ball any air. During his spell of two for 42 at The Oval one could see that he wasn’t afraid to toss it up and invite the batsman to do something silly. To add to that, he also varied his turn and length that made it difficult for the batsmen in their shot selection.

 

The Indian team has quite a few positives to take from the game at The Oval, Jadeja being one of them. The other positives include Ravichandran Ashwin (bowled well and was resilient with the bat), the improved fielding effort, Dhoni’s crucial knock and Rudra Pratap Singh (bowled with better rhythm). But, Ashwin’s statement at the post-match interview summed it up when he said “A lost game can never be called satisfying even if there is a fight.”

 

Thus, winning is what matters, the result may not show the positives if you are on the losing side!

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)