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India v New Zealand

Ravindra Jadeja stakes claim for all-time greatness

Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner
@Ben_Wisden 3 minute read

On day one of the first Test against New Zealand, India needed a senior player – one of those available to them, anyway – to stand up, and, with Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane failing, it was Ravindra Jadeja who stood tall.

With six first-choice players out, and the Black Caps the No.1-ranked Test side in the world, this was arguably the first time in a decade or more that India have gone into a home Test as underdogs. New Zealand started well, like a side who knew there was a game for the taking. Kyle Jamieson had proved he could succeed without helpful conditions, taking three top-order wickets, with the last of those accounting for Ajinkya Rahane, India’s captain and No.4, leaving debutant Shreyas Iyer as the last specialist batter standing, and less than 150 runs on the board.

By stumps, however, India had wrested the upper hand, an unbroken 113-run stand between Jadeja and Iyer seeing them past 250 at the close. With both bringing up half-centuries, the two could yet stitch together a match-defining session on the second morning.

Iyer’s innings began scratchily, his first runs coming via a lofted shot which just evaded Kane Williamson running back, and increased in confidence. But Jadeja, as he so often does, was assured from the moment he entered. He looked every inch the proper batter his record suggests he is.

Since the start of 2017, Jadeja’s all-round record is sensational. He averages 43.45 with the bat and 25.82 with the ball in that time. Among players with 15 or more wickets in that time, only Jamieson has a larger positive difference between batting and bowling averages.

At home, Jadeja’s record is even more astonishing. Since the start of 2018, he has a claim to being India’s most valuable batter, averaging 75.66 with the bat, and passing fifty in five of his ten innings. Among those with more than five innings in that time, only Mayank Agarwal has a better average for India.

Jadeja has remained as consistent as ever with the ball in that time, but it’s his improvement with the bat that has elevated him into the ranks, statistically at least, of the greatest all-rounders, and also allowed India greater flexibility with their playing XI. Jadeja has been given greater responsibility with the bat, promoted to No.5 against England, and it’s something he appears to thrive on. In nine games batting at No.6, he averages 81.75, compared to an average of 28.81 at No.7.

Jadeja has long been a star for India with the ball, with an overall career average below 25, and now his batting numbers are starting to look the part as well, with an overall average of just below 35. It’s a body of work that puts him up among the very best all-rounders in Test history. Among all-rounders with a sizeable number of appearances who can be considered more than part-timers (min. 50 caps and 100 wickets), only four players, Keith Miller, Imran Khan, Garry Sobers and Jacques Kallis, have a higher positive difference among batting and bowling averages.

And yet Jadeja is rarely considered in their class. Even by current measures, he finds himself competing with several others – the likes of Ben Stokes, Jason Holder and Shakib Al Hasan – for the title of the world’s best all-rounder.

Perhaps what Jadeja needs to take his reputation to the next level are more game- and series-defining performances, taking himself from being India’s ultimate supporting act to being a star batter. He has six Player of the Match awards in Tests, but the last of those came in August 2017, with his only Player of the Series award coming a few months before, in the 2016/17 Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Counted upon as a top-six batter in a depleted line-up against one of the world’s best sides, Jadeja responded with an innings to take India out of trouble. India’s utility man is now their main man, and from the looks of things, it suits him.

Follow the live blog of the 1st Test between India and New Zealand here

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