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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Explained: How Ravindra Jadeja has evolved as a batsman

Some time back, Jadeja would struggle to clear long-on against pacers. He was fine hitting spinners but not against pacers, who stopped his attacking instincts by bowling short of a length. What changed?

Written by Vishal Menon , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: April 27, 2021 9:54:05 am
Ravindra Jadeja of Chennai Super Kings plays a shot during a match against Royal Challengers Bangalore, held at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. (PTI Photo/Sportzpics for IPL)

On Sunday, Ravindra Jadeja orchestrated one of the most scintillating all-round performances in the IPL to hand Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) their first loss of the season, galvanising Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to the top of the points table. With the ball, he snared the wickets of Washington Sundar, Glenn Maxwell and AB de Villiers to derail RCB’s chase. On the field, he effected the run-out of Daniel Christian.

However, it was his assault with the bat — an unbeaten 28-ball 62 — a stunning display of power-hitting, pummelling IPL 2021’s Purple Cap holder Harshal Patel for 37 runs in the final over of CSK’s innings that sent fans into jaw-drop disbelief. RCB captain Virat Kohli fittingly summed it up, when he said: “One guy completely beat us. Today, his skill was there for everyone to see.”

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What made this knock special?

Jadeja walked out to bat at No.5, and survived a reprieve when he was dropped by Christian at the deep mid-wicket fence without even having opened his account. The innings gained momentum after he pulled Kyle Jamieson for a brace of boundaries. He would, however, reserve his best against Patel, pummelling five sixes — including one off a no-ball and a boundary — fleecing 37 runs from the last over, the joint-most expensive six balls bowled in this tournament. The blitzkrieg catapulted CSK’s tally to a match-winning 191/4.

The knock was special because it changed the complexion of the game in the matter of just six deliveries. Patel, who until then had impressive figures of 3/14, played into Jadeja’s hands by bowling three full tosses, as the all-rounder kept clearing his front leg and smoking the pacer over long-on and mid-wicket fence with ease. RCB’s man at the death overs had no answers to such a brutal assault, as he kept missing the length even as Jadeja unleashed that lovely, free swing of the bat.

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So, was this the perfect IPL knock?

Far from it. In fact, Jadeja laboured for the better part of his innings. He was dropped in the fourth delivery, and struggled with timing. The sultry Mumbai weather played a part, so did the remarkably disciplined RCB attack, who bowled to their field and kept Jadeja under check till the 19th over. Mohammed Siraj pinned him in the penultimate over with a series of well-directed yorkers. Coming into the final over, he was unbeaten on 21-ball 26. In that sense, Jadeja had not planned to take on Patel the way he did. It was just a culmination of bad bowling and some pristine hitting.

Was Jadeja always such an irresistible proposition with the bat?

No, he wasn’t. Some time back, Jadeja would struggle to clear long-on against pacers. He was fine hitting spinners but not against pacers, who stopped his attacking instincts by bowling short of a length.

What has changed now?

The arm extension and the arching of the back are two major tweaks in his batting. He still targets the mid-wicket and long-on fence, but the difference is that he connects them more consistently against pacers than he had done in the past. It can be attributed to his unforgiving fitness schedule, which has played a part in allowing him with that exaggerated follow through that gives him the requisite power. That apart, his back also arches backwards in an exaggerated manner as he strives to get extra force into his shots.

The 32-year-old has translated this batting form in international cricket, with match-winning knocks of 57 in the crucial second Test against Australia at the MCG, and an unbeaten 66 in the 3rd ODI in Canberra, during the white-ball leg of that tour.

How have people reacted to this knock?

CSK captain MS Dhoni couldn’t stop raving about his talisman all-rounder. “Jaddu (Jadeja) is somebody who can change the game on his own. In the last few years we’ve seen significant change in batting and it’s worth it to give him that extra bit of time, extra deliveries,” he said. “Ball 6 aur run 37. Only Sir Jadeja can do it,” former Indian opener Virender Sehwag tweeted. “Not for nothing we call him Gary Jadeja. Sheer brilliance – @imjadeja,” Team India head coach Ravi Shastri lauded.

What does Jadeja’s presence bring to CSK and Team India?

His explosive batting, electric fielding and skilful left-arm spin makes him a three-dimensional cricketer in the truest sense. Jadeja’s presence lends the much-needed balance in CSK and in the Team India line-up, giving them a sense of infallibility and a destructive hue. RCB and Team Indian captain Kohli gushed: “I am very happy to see him perform with the bat, ball and on the field,” before adding: “After two months, he will be back playing for India and it is always a pleasure to see your premier all-rounder do well with the bat. When he plays well and is confident, it lets out many opportunities.”

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