IPL 2021 is Ravindra Jadeja's chance to return with a bang
- Ravindra Jadeja is a rare modern-day, all-round, all-format cricketer. IPL 2021 beginning April 9 will provide Jadeja the platform to walk the talk and re-stamp his class as arguably the best all-rounder—Hardik Pandya being the other contender—going around in the country across the three formats.
"Out of action for a while. Surgery completed. But will soon return with a bang!" Ravindra Jadeja wrote on his social media handles in January with a picture of his heavily strapped left thumb and arm in a sling.
Two months on, the Indian Premier League (IPL) beginning April 9 will provide Jadeja the platform to walk the talk and re-stamp his class as arguably the best all-rounder—Hardik Pandya being the other contender—going around in the country across the three formats.
Jadeja saw Team India make one inspiring comeback after another from the sidelines after he dislocated his left thumb while being struck by a Mitchell Starc bouncer in the third Sydney Test against Australia. With that one blow, India lost an accurate left-arm spinner, a handy left-hand batsman and a gun fielder for the series-deciding fourth Test in Australia and the home series against England.
Big hole. But India’s tank had enough untested weapons loading up to fire to ensure that even the absence of a game-changing player like Jadeja wasn’t really felt. Instead, it was the season of the dazzling debutants.
Unload weapon number one: Washington Sundar. The right-arm offie immediately stepped into Jadeja’s shoes in the Brisbane Test, picking up three wickets in the first Australian innings on a bouncy Gabba track including the prized scalp of Steve Smith, whom Jadeja has dismissed four times in Test cricket. He wasn’t done, just like Jadeja usually isn’t, with one skill. Sundar notched up a vital 62 off 144 balls walking in at No. 7 in India’s first innings, forging a 123-run stand with Shardul Thakur to get India out of the dumps at 186 for six in reply to the hosts’ 369. There were no Jadeja-like sword celebrations on reaching his maiden Test fifty, but Sundar’s knock went a long way in blunting Australia’s chances of winning the series.
However, it was back home, in conditions more conducive to spin, that the fear of Jadeja’s absence loomed large against England. And the first Test in Chennai showed just why, with left-arm orthodox Shahbaz Nadeem—who played due to an injury to Axar Patel—not able to extract enough spice out of the placid surface. Jadeja, with his quicker release and speed behind the red cherry, might have found more life on the dead Chepauk deck that gave England the series opener.
Big hole. Unload weapon number two: Patel. He made the ball talk much like how his fellow Gujarati-speaking Jadeja would on turning tracks—by being quick, accurate and incisive with his left-arm spin. Patel ended up with 27 wickets in the remaining three Tests, threatening the English batsmen’s pads and stumps in equal measure.
The limited-overs series provided the true picture of Jadeja’s value in Indian cricket currently. None of the four spinners used by India across the five T20Is—Sundar, Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal and Rahul Chahar—managed to go below eight runs per over in the series, with Sundar returning the most wickets (4). Ditto in the ODIs, with Krunal Pandya the lone India spinner to pick up an English scalp in the three matches. If nothing else, Jadeja gives captain Virat Kohli the control from one end, often even on the kind of flat wickets dished out in Ahmedabad and Pune. In the 168 ODIs and 50 T20Is that he has played so far, Jadeja has an economy rate of 4.92 and 7.10 respectively. And that’s to go with the 188 and 39 wickets in the two formats.
Jadeja is a rare modern-day, all-round, all-format cricketer. Need a wicket to break a blossoming first-innings partnership? Jadeja will; like he did when he removed Marnus Labuschagne on 91 in the Sydney Test. Need a bowler to concede the least runs per over and pick up the most wickets in a T20 inning? Jadeja will; like he did in India’s second T20I against New Zealand last year with a spell of 4-0-18-2. Need a No. 7 batsman to accumulate a quiet fifty amid the headline-grabbing hundred in a Test but one that can be the difference between a total of 275 and 350? Jadeja will; like he did with his 159-ball 57 in India’s first innings of the Melbourne Test. Need the same No. 7 to shift gears in a T20 and take his team from 114 for six in the 17th over to 161 for seven? Jadeja will; like he did in the first T20I against Australia in Canberra smashing a 23-ball unbeaten 44. Need a fielder to engineer a direct hit from outside the circle in full motion with one step to aim at? Jadeja will; Smith wouldn’t need reminders.
Sure, Sundar and Patel have had noteworthy, even match-winning, contributions over the last couple of months and have stepped up to play their part in the spin all-rounder’s role. But the IPL may well reiterate Jadeja’s status as one of the world's best spinning all-rounders. For Chennai Super Kings as well as Team India in a T20 World Cup year.