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England v India

India need Jadeja the batsman to fulfil his potential

Jadeja batting
Aadya Sharma by Aadya Sharma
@Aadya_Wisden 4 minute read

Ravindra Jadeja will have to push the boundaries of his batting potential in the upcoming Test series with England, writes Aadya Sharma.

Gone are the days when Ravindra Jadeja was just another spin option for India. For a cricketer whose bowling has invariably overshadowed his batting in red-ball cricket, Jadeja’s career continues to evolve at rapid speed, and he now stands at a juncture where his Test credentials are equally defined by his batting and bowling.

Since the start of 2018, only Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja average over 50 in Test cricket for India (min. 10 innings). In this period, Jadeja has batted from four to nine (excluding No.5) and has hit eight fifty-plus scores (until the start of 2017, he had four overall).

The remarkable batting resurgence of late merits even greater credit when you consider the form of those who precede him in the batting line-up. Coinciding with Jadeja’s blazing form has been a dip in contributions from Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli. Across the inaugural World Test Championship, Jadeja averaged more than the trio, hitting as many fifty-plus scores in wins (five) as Pujara and Kohli. Kohli hasn’t scored a century in 20 months, and while there’ve been shades of brilliance in short spurts, the lack of big runs from him and other two has heightened the pressure on the batsmen who follow.

As India’s in-form middle order batsman then (along with the rapidly emerging Rishabh Pant), there’s more responsibility on Jadeja to fulfil his role down the order in the upcoming England series. After him lies a wobbly tail, with any team combination India opt for leaving them with at least three genuine tailenders. It’s always left India with the dilemma of squeezing in an extra batsman, especially with Ravichandran Ashwin’s hot-and-cold batting form not providing India the reliance they need.

Jadeja, then, isn’t just a spinner vying for a spin spot with Ashwin – his all-round abilities make him a separate entity in the squad itself. The other contenders – Washington Sundar and Axar Patel – are quite young in their Test careers, and have shown promise but not consistency across both disciplines.

It was on the last tour to England, in 2018, that Jadeja, the all-rounder, truly came to his own. By his own admission, the fifth Test at The Oval – his only game on the tour – “changed everything for him” when he blizted an unbeaten 86 from No.8. His confidence skyrocketed, and he sealed his spot completely, becoming an automatic choice in the playing XI, where he continues to be indispensable.

Three years later, another England tour beckons, but this time Jadeja isn’t just a spinner who can chip in with the bat. There’s higher expectation on him to rescue India down the order. The odd fifty may need to extend to more consistent streaks with the bat. For a batsman whose first-class average is 47, and with two triple-centuries to his name, there’s always the expectation to push limits in Test cricket.

That’s not to say that Jadeja’s lacking in any aspect, but with a seemingly tighter technique and the experience of two England tours behind him, he will have to have a more pronounced batting impact at seven. Visiting teams in England offen suffer sudden batting collapses, and India will be relying on Jadeja to arrest the slide and counter-attack when he can. To reach the next level of his remarkable progression as a premier all-rounder, Jadeja’s batting will have to evolve equally steadily. For India’s batting line-up that’s under the pump, it’s imperative that he does.

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