It speaks volumes about the quality of a batting line-up where a Ranji Trophy triple centurion bats at No 7. Ravindra Jadeja, by the way, has three of them.
So when the all-rounder insisted, despite falling short of a maiden century in the Mohali Test against England after being dismissed for 90, that he doesn’t consider himself a Test-level batsman, he seemed to be harsh on himself.
Long time coach Debu Mitra, however, couldn’t agree more with his former ward. “Jadeja is not a batsman. Scoring three Ranji triple centuries is a rare feat and Jadeja has showed he has that quality, but he is first and foremost an all-rounder, a complete package,” Mitra, who coached Jadeja in the Saurashtra Ranji side, told HT.
Jadeja’s selection has been questioned in the past but the ongoing series against England is an example why a player with his skill sets should be persisted with. Clearly the best fielder in the current team, Jadeja is also the most economical bowler, and the second highest wicket-taker in this series with Mohammed Shami.
His average suggests Jadeja is more effective at home than away but with India scheduled to play seven more Tests in their backyard this season, the statistic shouldn’t matter. In fact, Jadeja’s story, barring his 68 that helped India score a memorable win at Lord’s in 2014 in what later turned out to be a nightmarish series, mostly revolves around exploits at home.
Jadeja, however, is on the selectors’ radar for his left-arm spin. Mitra feels this is why it won’t matter if Jadeja doesn’t score much in Tests. “From the start, he had been stamped a left-arm spinner. Even if Jadeja scores a century, will the team management persist with him if he doesn’t take any wickets? He knows he has to do everything --- bowl, field and then score some runs if possible.”
First against South Africa last year and now against England, Jadeja the bowler looks more patient to handle situations. It is because he has learnt to keep it simple.
“Earlier, he used to try out a lot of things in Ranji Trophy. Here he isn’t doing that. He is concentrating on pitching the ball in one area. That’s one of the reasons he is the most economical bowler,” said Mitra.
However, the former Saurashtra coach was a bit puzzled by his batting. “His shot selection seems different in Tests. During Ranji he never used to flirt with a wide delivery. Here, I think he was a little frustrated with the negative bowling. I guess that shot (when he was out on 90) was more out of frustration,” said Mitra.
However, with Ravichandran Ashwin having taken his batting to a different level, Jadeja too looks to be slowly maturing and bringing depth to India’s batting. It has taken some cajoling though.
Before the second Test against New Zealand in September, skipper Virat Kohli had said Jadeja needed regular assurance from the management to realise his potential with the bat. And allowing Jadeja to get his fifty at Kanpur by postponing the declaration by three overs was just the kind of boost he needed.
A Test century still eludes Jadeja, but as long as he can chip in with the bat, ball and in fielding, Kohli will have more than one reason to trust his ability.