MOHALI:After bowling Saurashtra to a third successive victory in the Ranji Trophy, Ravindra Jadeja posted a picture on his Twitter handle. It was on Oct 23. He had taken five-wicket hauls in six consecutive innings and had 37 wickets to his name. His spells read: 6/27 & 5/45 vs Tripura, 6/71 & 7/55 vs Jharkhand and 6/75 & 7/60 vs Hyderabad. He took home all the six match balls with his bowling figures written on it and put them up on the twitter handle with a caption, “37 in 3,” followed by two emoticons with tongue in cheek. And then, “Wht next!!”
His name had already made it to the national team after a three-month gap. A three-month time, which he used, in his own words, to ride horses. “I thought let me enjoy my horse riding. It was a good time. Just rode my horses. When Ranji Trophy was about to begin, about one month before that, I began practising and working out. When the wickets came in the first two-three matches, confidence followed by itself. There was a different confidence in me. I wanted to do well for India too, otherwise you get an image that you do well only in domestic cricket.”
So he did, to steer India to a 108-run victory over South Africa. He had accounted for three wickets in the first innings as his spin twin Ravichandran Ashwin picked five. On Saturday, it was his turn. Perhaps it is the lack of turn that undid the South Africans. Opening the bowling, he left them in tatters removing the promoted Vernon Philander and captain Hashim Amla with ones that didn’t turn and went with the arm. If the former was late in bringing his bat down, the latter didn’t even use his bat as he let it disfigure the middle stump. Jadeja would go on a celebratory run giving the impression ‘what have you done Amla?’
“When the ball is turning and the wickets are coming, you get that confidence and then the ball comes out properly from your hand. It drops where you want. Sometimes when the ball is turning, a bowler can try too many things. I just didn’t want to give boundaries when the wickets weren’t coming. I kept bowling in one place so that pressure is created. Not all the balls were turning, and they mostly got out to the ones that didn’t turn,” Jadeja, who picked 50 Test wickets, said.
Most batsmen arrived with a notion that batting on the surface was near to impossible and half the battle was won for the Indian spinners. When batsmen showed hardly any patience, spinners showed plenty of it. When AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar and Stiaan Van Zyl played a few shots, Jadeja & Co didn’t go on the defensive but tried to restrict the damage.
In helpful home conditions, Jadeja can be as lethal as Ashwin. He can land two balls at the same spot—make it turn away as well as slide it with the arm. That makes him a difficult bowler to pick. He kept creating doubts. When wickets became hard to come, his amazing consistency to bowl a wicket-to-wicket line meant batsmen were exposed to consistent pressure. Former Australia skipper Michael Clarke couldn’t figure a way out in 2013. Now South Africans find themselves in similar situation.
Stat of the Art
8 Jadeja’s bowling figures of 8-76 in this game is his best match tally in Tests, eclipsing the 7 for 98 against Australia in 2013
13 Number of Tests taken by Jadeja to pick 50 wickets, making him the joint fastest Indian left-arm spinner to the mark alongside Pragyan Ojha and joint 8th left-arm spinner overall
3 No. of days the last 4 Test matches in India required to produce a result - vs WI, Mumbai, vs WI, Kolkata and vs Aus, Delhi (all three in 2013)
2 Among all Indian bowlers with 100 or more Test wickets, Ashwin now has the best average (27.54) & best strike-rate (55.32)