Which aspect of Ravindra Jadeja’s batting did Stephen Fleming, MS Dhoni and Shane Watson salivate over during the recent IPL? Unsurprisingly, they picked three different traits they admire, three positive self-projections of sorts.
For Fleming, the coach, it was the mental approach, the ability to keep things simple. “At times, he has tried to play too smart. Now he is just playing freely. Hitting beautifully, training hard, hitting lots of ball and that is paying off. He has been outstanding,” Fleming said near the end of this IPL.
Dhoni, the guiding light, focused on self-awareness and self-belief. “The good thing is, he’s very balanced at the end (overs). He knows, and believes in the kind of talent that he has, and he has looked to score everywhere. He’s not just using his power, at times he has scored through the point region if the field is up.”
For the beefy Watson, who actually fusses a lot about the technique behind hitting, it was the left-hander’s power hitting. “This season defines Jadeja as the power-hitter, to do that consistently as he did was just amazing, and he’s put so much time into developing that aspect of his game.”
The choices of the three were revealing of their own strengths and also spot on about their subject. It’s the coming together of those three qualities that has elevated Jadeja the batsman this year. In the 14 IPL games, he averaged 46.40 at a strike rate of 171.85.
Cricket analysis tool Cricviz has a Power Rating attribute where Jadeja shone. “It explores beyond intent and contact and looks at a player’s ability to find and clear the rope when they make good contact, and looks specifically at shots when the batsman has made good contact. … Jadeja’s the king of Power … only Jofra Archer has been more effective this season of the players to have faced 50+ balls.”
There used to be a time when Jadeja would struggle to clear long-on against pacers. He was fine hitting spinners but couldn’t consistently clear the boundary against pacers. He could also be kept quiet by hit-the-deck bowlers who pinged short of length. He would also be curbed by bouncers, as he would be a touch late on them. A prime example was the 2009 ICC World T20 game against England when Dhoni promoted him to No. 4 in a chase of 158, but Jadeja dawdled for a 35-ball 25 that cost India dear.
Even in 2015, during the World Cup in Australia, Dhoni urged Jadeja to step up as a batsman. “He needs to improve and needs to step up really. We have a lot of faith in him but at the end of the day, you can’t really play with hope. What you want is actual performance on the field. He has that capability, he is definitely talented. He needs to keep believing in himself. Every batsman is tested in a few areas. They will bowl short-pitched deliveries to him, he will have to find a way in which he can tackle it.”
So, what has changed?
In recent times, Jadeja’s batting has dramatically changed courtesy two tweaks: the arm-extension, and the arching of the back.
The areas he hits – straight down the ground or square – remain the same but it’s the extension of the arms at impact that has changed. In the past, against pace, he would not go through with his shots when connecting with the ball. The last-instant post-impact follow-through jab has certainly spiked up in recent times, and worked in his favour.
Also, these days his back arches backwards in an exaggerated recoiling fashion when he finishes the shot as he strives to punch through with extra force. One can see his intent these days when he goes down the ground with his shots.
Jadeja played quite a few nifty knocks in the IPL this season, either lending respectability to an otherwise meandering innings or finishing games for Chennai Super Kings. Pace wasn’t a problem as he took on the likes of Anrich Nortje in some style. Now in Australia, he has stepped up for India.
In the 47th over of the third ODI in Canberra on Wednesday, he employed the arm-extension to a full delivery from Josh Hazlewood and sent it soaring over wide long-on. Then came that powerful arch-back next ball. It was full outside off and Jadeja arched his back even as he sliced it and though the exaggerated movement of the back seemed to threaten his ‘shape’, he somehow just about held his balance to crash-land the ball over backward point.
The three fours in the 48th over, bowled by Sean Abbott, showcased Jadeja’s evolution in batting awareness and skill development. With the square-leg in, he realised the delivery was going to be full and outside off – and he quickly shimmied across, crouched on a knee and swept the fast bowler to the boundary. Next came the expected short one – more than a reaction to the previous ball, it’s a delivery that all fast bowlers will (and should) try against him, but he responded with a feisty pull. The next ball was even better; a bouncer just outside off, and this time Jadeja stayed side-on and calmly cut it over the in-field for a boundary.
Sir @imjadeja talks about the game, his batting position, the dropped catch and on the right usage of ice 🧊
— Sony Sports (@SonySportsIndia) December 2, 2020
A couple of minor tweaks and dollops of guts have transformed the career of Jadeja the allrounder. As Wednesday night wound down, he had an icepack on his left shoulder as he spoke to former India players Ajay Jadeja and Virender Sehwag in the Sony Liv studio.
Ajay chipped in with, “Ice should be in a glass!” Jadeja smiles as he says, “Actually, idhar raat hai, honi toh chahiye! (It’s night here, should be there (in the glass)!”. Near the end of the chat, Sehwag wraps it up, “Cheetah bhi peeta hai, time ho gaya” and Jadeja chuckles, “Actually Veeru-pa, thand bahut hai, mahoul toh hai hi! (It’s very cold, perfect ambience!). And he laughs. Wickets, Runs, Catches – all is well in the world of Jadeja.