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India v Australia 2022/23

All eyes are on Ashwin but Jadeja may steal the show again

Sarah Waris by Sarah Waris
@swaris16 4 minute read

All eyes are on R Ashwin for the upcoming four-Test match series against Australia, but Ravindra Jadeja could be an equal threat, writes Sarah Waris.

Australia are preparing to combat the threat of Ashwin, by hiring a “carbon copy” to join their nets in the build-up to the series, while debates over the third spinner – between Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav – are doing the round. Amidst all this, Jadeja has gone under the radar. Returning from a long injury lay-off, he picked up seven wickets against Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy last month to prove his fitness and form.

However, lack of match practice and the full extent of his recovery are concerns. The National Cricket Academy has, not in the distant past, cleared players as fit only to see them get ruled again. Jadeja’s availability across all four Test matches is also uncertain. As a result of all that, he is not being talked about much less than usual ahead of a major home series.


Australia will be wary of him for this is a player who has done exceedingly well against them across conditions. Jadeja averages 18.85 for his 63 wickets across 12 Test matches against Australia – his best performance against any side against whom he has picked up at least 10 scalps. His successes are not just limited to home conditions either. He averages 18.02 against them at home, but has been as effective in Australia, averaging 21.78 – his best in a country outside Asia, albeit across only four Test matches and 14 wickets.

In the last home series against Australia in 2016/17, Jadeja ended with 25 scalps to end as the highest wicket-taker and the Player of the Series award. He particularly troubled Steve Smith, Peter Handscomb and David Warner, dismissing Smith thrice in four Tests. Warner averaged 16.50 against him, falling twice, while Handscomb averaged 19 for his two dismissals.

Smith’s dismissal in Ranchi stands out. Bowling from over the wicket, Jadeja pitched the ball outside leg, into the rough. Expecting the ball to go straight, Smith could only watch in horror as it went past his defence to uproot his off stump.

Jadeja’s ability to bowl the same line and length for hours, with subtle variations in pace and without changes in action, makes him a tough opponent. Not a big turner of the ball, he largely bowls at the fourth-stump line to keep the right-hander guessing – a tactic acknowledged by Smith: “Why he is so good because, he hits that good length and one ball skids on and one spins, and it just all looks the same out of the hand. I think consistency in length is key and then having at least one variation.”

Sixty-six percent of Jadeja’s wickets have been of right-handers, with the ball moving away after pitching. Australia will have relaxed with a left-hander-heavy top order comprising Warner, Alex Carey, Usman Khawaja and Travis Head. However, Warner’s overall troubles against Jadeja would keep them cautious. Since 2017, 33.5 percent of Jadeja’s wickets have been left-handers, which indicates how he has improved his overall game.

Jadeja has dismissed Warner four times in nine Tests. The first of these was in 2012/13, in India. The ball pitched on off and skidded on, and Warner tried to defend. However, the ball hit him in front of middle stump, because, as Smith later said, the batters are unable to pick the straighter and the spinning deliveries from the hand.

Four years later, Warner was undone by the flat trajectory. Jadeja bowled in the rough. Warner, on the back foot, did not account for the ball turning past his inside edge from the rough. It was also India’s reasoning for selecting him at The Oval in 2021, over Ashwin.

India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour had said back then. “On the fifth-day wicket, there is rough outside the left-hander’s off stump. So, he will play a massive role.”

In Nagpur and Delhi, pitches that have historically favoured spinners, footmarks emerge early on, due to the follow-through of the faster bowlers. Since India are likely to go in with two right-handed pacers, Jadeja will come into play. He exploits these footmarks or the “rough” and bowls wider from the crease, bowling around the sixth-stump line to left-handers. Some balls go straight and some turn, leaving batters in a dilemma.

This is also something Jadeja used to good effect against England at home in 2021, where he troubled Ben Stokes in particular. This could also spell trouble for the Australia left-handers.

Additionally, Jadeja’s ability to bowl long spells with increased pace allows him to get more purchase. He hurries the batters by running through the overs quickly and the challenge is then to not only survive but also keep the strike rate rotating.

While all focus is all Ashwin, and rightly so, Jadeja will have an equally crucial role to play if India wish to complete their fourth successive series win against Australia.

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