PUNE: Ravindra Jadeja's sword dance is kind of getting boring of late. You liked it when it first debuted at Lord’s in 2013, where his bat swished around after his maiden Test fifty. Then you waited for another three years before he did it again in Kanpur.
During the same season, he reeled out similar celebrations in Mohali and Chennai. Then it became a trend. Hyderabad, Ranchi and Dharamsala. All saw important lower-order runs and that flashy display of wrist-power. 'Will Jadeja do something else if he reaches three figures?', we all wondered.
He nearly got there last year at the Oval. A month later in Rajkot, his homeground, he did. Out came the same celebration. You enjoyed it, nevertheless. Then again in Sydney. ‘Why would someone keep watching the same thing over and over again?’, you’d think. Try asking that to those who were there in India’s dressing room on Friday. They were all claps and smiles as Jadeja did the sword dance again, this time during a 104-ball 91 (8x4, 2x6) and a game-changing 225-run stand for the fifth wicket.
This India likes multi-utility cricketers. Among them, Jadeja is the first on the team sheet whenever they play at home. He is relentless with the ball. He is exceptional on the field; batsmen don’t dare chance his strong left-arm. With the bat, he hasn’t been this consistent.
Jadeja exudes a different kind of confidence when he walks in. You feel that something special is coming up. He isn’t reckless. He is measured. He starts off cautiously; runs hard to convert ones into twos, and twos into threes. With spread-out fields, he picks gaps with precision. If the field is up, he steps down the track and wallops it over mid-wicket or long-on. Doesn’t matter if it’s pace or spin.
But what else should we expect from Jadeja the batsman? He has three triple centuries in first-class cricket; all made before his Test debut. Yet, Jadeja never seemed to play to his potential. In a team never short of batsmen, he was mostly sent down the order, behind R Ashwin. It made sense then. With the tail, he could be banked upon to make quick runs.
But something has changed of late; Jadeja doesn’t seem to hold anything back with the bat. Sitanshu Kotak, though, downplays this. "There’s more of him to see," is how he dismisses Jadeja’s latest knock. Kotak, who now coaches India A, has seen Jadeja grow as a cricketer. He and Jadeja have been constants over many winters in Saurashtra’s dressing room. First as a player and then as a coach (recently), the former opener has witnessed each of Jadeja’s three triple-tons.
"People talk about him being underutilised. But I won’t say so. He had never batted to his potential. He still doesn't. Look at his career. He has batted way down the order; he’s mostly had to shepherd the tail. He’s bailed them out with important runs. Now they’ve allowed him to bat higher up, and he showed what he can do. Even today, he scored with the declaration in mind; not for himself. If he bats higher up, you will see him getting big scores." Those who live by the sword, thrive by the sword.