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Ravindra Jadeja: Relentless, ripping, and saving his best for the best

Ravindra Jadeja picked up a five-wicket haul on his return from injury
by Shashwat Kumar 4 minute read

Shashwat Kumar was in Nagpur as Ravindra Jadeja made his long-awaited return from injury, picking up a five-wicket haul and reminding everyone just how good he is.

July, 2022. That was the last time Jadeja had turned out for India in the longest format prior to Thursday. A couple of months later, he picked up an injury during the Asia Cup, and missed the T20 World Cup that followed. He also sat out the second half of IPL 2022, owing to a different injury.

There were murmurs around how fit Jadeja was, and whether he would be able to maintain his superlative standards. But if you watched him bowl against Australia at Nagpur, you would never have known that he was coming into the encounter on the back of such a lengthy injury lay-off.


Jadeja had the ball on a string throughout the first innings. He bowled 22 overs and picked up five wickets, including the two most important wickets, of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith. In short, he ticked off all the boxes India would have wanted him to.

Throughout the day, he gave nothing away to the batters, was always at the stumps, forcing batters to try something different to relieve the pressure. In other words, he was the quintessential Jadeja.

The first wicket Jadeja bagged was of Labuschagne, who had looked composed until that point. After bowling a string of straight, flat balls, Jadeja tossed the ball up just enough outside off stump to entice Labuschagne into a drive. Labuschagne, to his credit, got a massive stride forward.

To viewers, it felt he was in control… until he was not. The ball dipped viciously, spun past the outside edge, and debutant KS Bharat whipped off the bails in a flash.

A ball later, Matt Renshaw, included in the side for his ability to play spin, could not come to grips with Jadeja’s drift. Bowling from around the wicket, Jadeja got the ball to spin back sharply from middle and off. By then, Renshaw had fallen across and cut himself off, leaving himself susceptible to an lbw. Jadeja also hoodwinked Todd Murphy in similar fashion, before outfoxing Peter Handscomb.

He saved his best for the legend. Unlike most visiting batters, Smith has a stellar record in India. For much of his vigil he looked every bit the batter who had made three hundreds in four Test matches when he last toured here. He seemed to have figured out how much the ball was turning and how late he had to play to tackle it.

But for once, that did not turn out to be enough against a champion in rhythm. The ball that got Smith pitched on that kind of length where you cannot choose between going forward and back. Smith played for the turn – only to realise, much to his horror, that there was not any.

The ball breezed past the inside edge and clattered into the off stump. Jadeja has now castled Smith in Test cricket thrice – the most by anyone in the format.

Smith, the ubiquitous student of the game, quickly glanced at the track, possibly seeking an explanation to what had exactly happened. A few overs earlier, Labuschagne had a similar expression when Jadeja had ripped the ball past his outside edge.

These two dismissals, though, were not about the surface, or a result of the batters making elementary errors, for both men played reasonably well until they got out. The look of disbelief on their face mirrors that of many predecessors after Jadeja had his way with them on home soil.

Even before a ball had been bowled at Nagpur, most would have agreed on Jadeja’s greatness. He averaged 24.71 with the ball in Test cricket. At home, 20.66. Against Australia, 18.85. Against Australia at home, 18.02. Whatever filter you choose, the numbers foretold what was on the cards here. The only question was whether he was at his best after the long injury lay-off.

Now, after another typically tidy and terrific spell, Jadeja had put every concern to rest.

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