That Ravindra Jadeja is spoken of as a match-winner in the shorter formats shouldnt surprise anyone anymore. Twelve months ago,it might have sounded ambitious. But such has been the Saurashtra all-rounders impact on the Indian teams success over the last six to seven monthswith the ball in particularthat his new-found reputation is justified. If anything,it is warranted. Also read: Highway stars
The 24-year-old left-arm spinner has in many ways been the silent hero for India during their dominant run in ODI cricket,chipping away at batting line-ups,picking up crucial wickets,and rarely allowing the opposition to add impetus in the middle overs. And its safe to say that Jadeja has been the go-to man for the Indian captain,regardless of whether it is Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Virat Kohli at the helm. Also read: Serial winners
In 20 matches since his return to the team in January this year,Jadeja has accounted for 35 victims at an average of 18.48 while the most startling aspect of his bowling statistics is an economy rate of just 3.79. His thriftiness is even more staggering considering the new ODI rules,which allow only four fielders to be positioned outside the 30-yard circle. You just have to look at his figures from some 18 months back,when he was dropped from the Indian team,to get a grip on how far his bowling has come since. Back then,Jadeja was left out after a disappointing Asia Cup campaign,after managing just four wickets at 97 apiece in 10 games that year with an economy of 5.44. Also read: A case for rotation
So what makes Jadeja such a challenging prospect these days,considering that he doesnt really come across as a left-arm spinner in the classical mould? Why is it that batsmen the world over have struggled against his seemingly innocuous left-arm spin,which on the face of it looks bereft of traditional loop and revolutions?
The obvious strength that Jadeja possesses is his accuracy. The ability to pitch the ball on the same spot over and over again,aided by a uncomplicated bowling action with limited jerks. Plus he uses the crease intelligently,often utilising a wide angle while bowling around the wicket to a right-hander. Also read: Meet Tatenda Taibu,keeper of the faith
Jadejas wicket-taking ability,however,accrues from a subtle bunch of variations that he uses judiciously and rather cunningly without any significant change to his natural bowling action. While Jadeja doesnt really rely on giving the ball too much air,he still gets it to drift into right-handers. The drift on most occasions is a result of him under-cutting the seam and the angle ensures that the batsman is in a way pressurized into playing every ball that he bowls.
But where Jadeja gets his man is by leaving him confused about whether the ball will turn after pitching or simply carry on with the angle. Therefore the batsman has no choice but to offer his bat on every occasion. The pace and trajectory at which Jadeja bowls,meanwhile,means that he dare not get his pad anywhere in the way of the ball,lest he wants to be trapped right in front.
No room for error
Such is the line that he bowls that many a batsman get lulled into attempting a cut-shot only to see the ball sneak past their bats and knock the stumps back. Ask Michael Clarke,who went out that way more than once during the Test series in India. Its not surprising therefore to note that 48 out of his 92 victimsor 52 per centhave been either bowled or lbw.
Another subtle variation that gets Jadeja wickets is when he puts overspin on the ball and gets it to dip on the batsman,often beating him in the air. Thats where hes got his eight stumped dismissals in ODI cricket from. The dip also means batsman have ended up not reaching the pitch of the ball,attempted drives away from their body and gotten fatal edges.
While he made Clarke his bunny during the Tests against Australia,Jadejas limited yet impressive repertoire has helped him snare big fish like Ricky Ponting,Mahela Jayawardene and Jonathan Trott too in the past.
There were some who called the selection of Jadeja a stop-gap measure,only justifiable in subcontinent conditions. But the combative left-arm tweaker has shut his detractors up with consistent performances across venues and conditions. That most pitches around the world for ODI cricket resemble those prevalent in the subcontinent has helped him in that cause.
And in what has been a watershed season for him,the flashy youngster,despite his unflamboyant bowling repertoire,has proved that hes here to stay.