The Gift Wrappers

On a day when Jadeja,Ashwin and Ishant take all eight wickets to give India 2-0 series lead,the left-arm spinner steals the show

Written by Sandeep Dwivedi | Hyderabad | Published: March 6, 2013 12:29 am

Record-breaking run feats and dramatic batting collapses have a way of dominating the cricket narrative. In this batsmen’s game,it’s not just the success,even the collective failure of the willow-men can dominate idle talk or intense debate among experts.

For a bowler to get noticed,he needs to do something special,at least get half of the rival team’s batsmen out.

The second Test here had a ton,a double ton and a record partnership from the Indians. This was followed by an Australian debacle on the fourth day morning — 8 wickets falling for 57 runs in 35 overs. The unexpected batting slip-up pushed the visitors to an innings and 135 runs loss and gave the home team a 2-0 lead,with Ravichandran Ashwin’s 5/63 making him the most successful bowler in the Test.

So,in the context of the Test,how important was Ravindra Jadeja’s contribution of three wickets in each innings? Jadeja’s figures aren’t the kind that would jump off the scoresheet,nor will the Hyderabadis chant his name from the terraces the next time he is here. But ask India skipper MS Dhoni and he will endorse the importance of the all-rounder to the eleven.

For starters,Jadeja’s success means Dhoni has a lighter head. At least for the home series,the never ending debate about the No.6 batsman is settled. Interestingly,this came about due to Jadeja’s bowling show. The left-arm spinner may have had a match-tally of just six wickets but he was responsible for landing a few very critical blows that crippled Australia.

two birds,twice fallen

Post-Chennai,it was clear that the weight of the Australian total would depend on the longevity of Michael Clarke’s and Moises Henriques’ innings. Of all the batsmen on the tour party,they looked the best-equipped and best prepared to negotiate the challenges of the sub-continent. Single-handedly,Jadeja took care of them in both the innings here.

Clarke lost his stumps to Jadeja twice. Same with Henriques,once while batting and the other time while running between the wickets. But it was the Henriques dismissal in the first innings and Clarke’s in the second that showcased Jadeja’s skills as a left-arm spinner of unique skills.

Born in Jamnagar — a cricketing outpost but a city that appears prominently in the game’s history — Jadeja was never seen as Test material. His style of play and his general persona wasn’t the kind that made many to predict that he could shine against the best in the world in the longer version. But based on his batting exploits in the Ranji Trophy,he got his break in Tests — where he is now shining as a bowler.

To Jadeja’s advantage,this series gave him a chance to bowl on pitches that were similar to the ones on which he grew up on. In his journey from being a promising junior — an under-19 World Cup winner — to a Test all-rounder,the turning track has been a constant companion.

Smooth on rough

At Rajkot,his Ranji Trophy team would often play on tracks with loose soil and a dusty surface that would get roughed up as the game progressed. Being Saurashtra’s main spinner for several seasons now,the left-armer mastered the art of exploiting those scuffed-up patches.

His accuracy helps him land the ball on the rough all day. Besides,his pace and tweaks exaggerates the natural variation of the pitch. ‘On a crumbling track,Jadeja is a sure-shot winner,’ is a common saying on the domestic circuit. Chances are that they might be saying something similar even at internationals following this Test.

Today,the frame of a stunned Clarke,with an uprooted off-stump for a background,will only help accelerate the hype around this lad. It was a classic dismissal for an orthodox as the ball had drifted in and moved away to knock down the off-stump. Henriques too was dismissed by a similar ball in the first innings. But Clarke’s was more dramatic as both the drift and turn were more.

It is believed that Jadeja would struggle on less helpful tracks abroad. But that’s a long way away. At present,his entry in the playing XI has added two vital things — stability to the line-up and a spinner who can exploit a weary track. Both were missing in the 2-1 loss to England.

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