In a decade-long international career, the 31-year-old’s batting has often come under the microscope, especially in limited-overs cricket. However, as ‘Jadeja the batsman’ turned a new leaf with that innings in Manchester, his critics, who had called him a ‘bits and pieces cricketer’, were silenced.
Ever since Jadeja has looked far more assured and measured at the crease and has started to perform the role the Indian team has been yearning from him for several years. Coming to bat lower down the order is no mean task. But his consistency at that spot has improved in ODIs over the last year.
On Wednesday in Canberra, he raised his game another notch. It’s not just the 66 runs he scored from 50 balls that would have pleased the team management, but the manner in which he scored them.
Coming into bat at the fall of Virat Kohli’s wicket with India in some strife at 152 for five, Jadeja took his time to settle down before unleashing himself in the end overs. His shot-selection and execution, particularly in the 48th over bowled by Sean Abott was exemplary.
Jadeja credited his long-time mentor MS Dhoni for tutoring him to bat down the order. “He (Dhoni) has a set pattern that he tries to build a partnership with whichever batsman he is playing, and once he gets set, he looks to play the big shots. He tells me that if we take the match to the end, then a lot of runs can come in the last four to five overs,” said Jadeja at the post-match TV show.
Sitanshu Kotak, who has seen Jadeja’s rise, first as a player and then as a coach at Saurashtra, is pleased that the Jamnagar lad is realizing his true potential. “You could feel that he has got better as a batter when he was playing IPL this season. Jadeja has matured as a player and that is showing in his performance. He is taking more responsibility, putting a price on his wicket, and is picking the right moments to be aggressive,” Kotak said.
Bowling form dips
However, the rise in batting fortunes for Jadeja in ODIs has coincided with a dip in his bowling form. Though he bowls a restrictive wicket-to-wicket line, he has found wickets difficult to come by in the middle overs and this has affected the Indian team’s performance. In fact, in the just-concluded three-match ODI series in Australia, Jadeja has only the wicket of Aaron Finch in the final match to show for and has just seven wickets from nine matches at an average of 67.42 in the calendar year.
In Test match cricket, however, Jadeja has found a better balance between his run-scoring and wicket-taking abilities. If he can replicate that into white-ball cricket, then it would not only help his cause but also augur well for his team with India set to host the T20 World Cup in less than a year.