From Lord’s 2014 to today – Jadeja’s evolution into a top all-rounder

Ravindra Jadeja in action (Image: Debasis Sen)

Lord’s  2014, and England had given India a green top. Despite Ajinkya Rahane’s fine first innings ton, India were far from safe going into the second innings. And when MS Dhoni was dismissed, leaving Murali Vijay stranded, hopes of an Indian win seemed remote. In walked Ravindra Jadeja. Two hours later came the first-ever sword dance. Jadeja@50, and the match had been set up. Thanks to Ishant Sharma’s super bowling effort, India won a famous victory, which to an extent had also been set up by Jadeja.

Back home, he has always been superb. And gets better with every series. For once, Michael Vaughan will not be challenged by Wasim Jaffer because Vaughan is absolutely correct in acknowledging that Jadeja is the best all-rounder in the world at the moment in these conditions. Using spin-friendly conditions, Jadeja has tormented Australia, England and South Africa over the last five years. On occasions, he has even outdone Ravi Ashwin, the premier spinner, on home soil.

Jadeja, with bat in hand in the last few years, has turned a new leaf. He can, in adverse conditions, deliver with both bat and ball. That’s what Jadeja has proved time and again and that’s what the new Jadeja is all about. The sword dance, which I was so keen to see, did not come out after he reached fifty and could come once again if he gets to a 100 on Saturday morning. That’s because Jadeja, it seems, has made peace with himself as a player. He manages pressure well and, in doing so, delivers for India with amazing regularity.

Ravindra Jadeja celebrating his half-century (Image: Debasis Sen)

In this Test match, Jadeja has yet again demonstrated how important he is to this Indian side. In fact, if we take a look at some of India’s best wins in recent times, Jadeja’s imprint on them is undeniable. Be it the Melbourne win in 2020, when he stitched a very important partnership with Ajinkya Rahane, to his performances in England, Jadeja has been a key ingredient in India’s success. A much-improved batter than he was some years back, Jadeja can now qualify as a genuine all-rounder in every sense. Not just a bowler who can also bat, but rather someone who is equally good with both bat and ball. And that’s where he is invaluable for India. Be it in this series or in Australia at the end of this year, Jadeja’s presence will be key for India.

What explains his improvement as a batter? And how did he work it all out in the mind? Jadeja had explained this to us sometime back. “To play well in Test cricket was an ambition I had for a long time and I am glad I have been able to do so,” he said. “I used to tell myself that if can score triple-hundreds in domestic cricket, there is no reason why I can’t score runs at the international level. Scoring important runs for India gives you real joy and is something I am proud of.”

Add to this that not too long ago, Jadeja was injured. An injury that stopped him from playing in the T20 World Cup in Australia in October 2022. The team management copped a lot of flak from fans for not looking after Jadeja and on his return to international cricket, there was enough pressure on him to deliver. True to his warrior image, he did. Picking up key wickets and scoring important runs, he has yet again played a pivotal role in a key Test match for India, which could have a serious bearing on this WTC cycle.

While we celebrate Jadeja the batter and bowler, may we also say that in every game he ends up saving 15-20 runs for his team. Perhaps the best outfielder in the world at the moment, Jadeja is a package that any captain would die for in these conditions. With the Indian lead touching 200, it could well be enough. With Jadeja, Ashwin and Axar Patel all hunting in tandem in England’s second innings, an innings win is not a pipe dream. If that happens, Jadeja would have left yet another telling imprint on the game. And not for the first time.


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