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Slowly but surely, Ravindra Jadeja has risen as a genuine all-rounder

Source: Twitter (ICC)

“He is a genuine all-rounder,” said Ravi Shastri about Ravindra Jadeja after Team India won the second Test against Australia at the MCG. “That is why he bats where he is. He can bat at 6, he can bat at 5 if need be on a given occasion. But he is a genuine, genuine all-rounder.”

The case of Jadeja has been a curious one. In almost all his opportunities in recent times, the cricketer has impressed with either bat, ball, or with his fielding skills, yet he has, time and again, never been taken as a “serious” cricketer (yup, hinting at the “bits and pieces” remark). In Test cricket, where the purists like Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane and Ravi Ashwin rule, the eccentricities of Jadeja – a big-hitting live wire who is often called on to bowl after most of the specialist bowlers have completed a spell or two (he bowled three overs on Day One of the current SCG Test) traditionally should have not found a place in the longer formats.

However, this is where Jadeja has been breaking the stereotypes (almost like Mayank Agarwal, who has raised his game to excel in white-ball cricket of late after being termed a Test specialist). He averages 35.66 with the bat in Tests (1926 runs till the first innings against Australia) while his bowling average is an impressive 24.48 (216 wickets). Only Imran Khan has scored more runs and taken more wickets than Jadeja with a better average. Since 2018, the all-rounder averages 55.57 with the bat – the second-highest average by an Indian batsman in the period after Rohit Sharma.

His batting started improving ever since England toured India in 2016/17. Since then, he has amassed 1330 runs at an average of nearing 48. Only Virat Kohli has scored more runs at a better average in the said period. With 14 fifties along with a ton in the last four-and-a-half years, Jadeja has emerged as a proper number seven, who not only adds depth to the batting but who also allows the side to play an extra bowler (case in point – the second Test against Australia, where India lost the services of Umesh Yadav, but still had four genuine bowlers).

In wins, since January 2018, Jadeja has picked up 40 wickets with the ball whilst averaging 49.54 with the bat in hand. Only two other batters, who have played at least 10 Test matches from India in the interim, average more with the bat, which is evidence of how crucial the player has been for the team in recent years. Even away from home, Jadeja has been exceptional as he has the best average among spinners in SENA countries (minimum 10 wickets) since 2018.

At the MCG, the Saurashtra cricketer stepped up with elan, putting a price on his wicket as he adapted to the situation, scoring 57 in 159 deliveries and notching up 121 runs with Rahane. At the SCG, when quick runs were the need of the hour after a questionable batting approach by the Indian top order, he scored 28 in 37 balls with the help of five fours, thus proving again that he is a man for all situations. Earlier, on a wicket that was flat and had little assistance, he had picked up four wickets and deservedly got his fifth (yeah, he can claim the run-out as his) when a direct throw sent back Steve Smith for 131. He described it as one of the best fielding efforts by him at the end of the day’s play, and it is no wonder that the side missed his energetic presence on the field when he was taken for scans after copping a blow while batting in the first innings of the game.

There are arguments whether Jadeja can give Ben Stokes a run for his money as far as the best all-rounder tag goes currently, but he has proven quite emphatically that he is more than a bits and pieces cricketer, and there could have been no higher honor than being called as a “genuine, genuine all-rounder” by head coach Ravi Shastri.

This postgraduate in English Literature from Kolkata has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words. A firm believer that Kohli is a wizard with the willow, she spends her time awaiting the next Indian spring triumph.

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