When it comes to his batting, Ravindra Jadeja has become a different beast altogether in the last couple of years. The Chennai Super Kings all-rounder has worked on his power-hitting and has become a ferocious finisher for his franchise and team India. He was ruthless in the first half of IPL 2021, smashing 131 runs in six innings at a strike rate of 161.72. And, we all know what he did to Harshal Patel in the final over of the innings.
Harshal, who currently holds the Purple Cap, was whacked for 37 runs by Jadeja who has made a couple of noticeable tweaks to his batting. In fact, no other batsman has scored more runs than Jadeja (186 at a strike rate of 258.3) in the last two overs of the innings in IPL since 2018. He has a better strike rate than the likes of Kieron Pollard (246.4) and Hardik Pandya (231.1) in that phase.
"I improved my training methods as I realized in T20 I needed power apart from the timing. Timing comes in handy when you are not in a rush for runs, like in Tests. I increased my training before that season, worked a lot on overall strength, upper body, and shoulder. There were one-and-half months of practice before that 2020 season and I didn’t miss even a day even if it was optional," Jadeja told The Indian Express.
Last year, former CSK opener Shane Watson spoke about Jadeja's knee flex at stance and how his exaggerated arch-back allows him to flow through the line of the ball. "Watson’s point about knee bend is about the flow in my shots. He reckons I have a great balance when I go through the shots. My body’s balance is in the center when I play the forcing shots. That increases the chances of connecting with the aerial shots; mein connect karoonga hi karoonga (I will definitely connect). I also started to finish the shots well. In T20, every middle-order batsman is trying to hit a six, it goes as four sometimes. That’s my method as well."
Jadeja also revealed that he had some issues with shot selection and wasn't always comfortable against short deliveries. "Shot selection was something I also felt I was doing wrong. My judgement at the start wasn’t right. I would be in double mind. ‘Should I go for the shot, or no?’ These days, I like to take my time and I am clearer in my mind. I know I can always cover up the runs later. That change in thinking has helped.
"About bouncers, yes when you hit a six against short ones, the confidence increases. I never had a problem against bouncers – as in I don’t remember getting out too many times to it or thinking I can’t play it. It was about the selection of shots and my balance."
The 32-year-old also spoke about what makes him a brilliant "all-round" fielder. Jadeja is a livewire on the field. His catching is top-notch and the way he covers the ground is highly impressive. And, he has a rocket arm, as no one in the world throws as fast as Jadeja. "You must ask my papa (laughs). I have his genes. Some of it is natural. Lots of hard work with shoulder exercises, gym, practice. It’s not all-natural for me.
"I work a lot on it else, my shoulders won’t have lasted long. It’s been 12-13 years but I have maintained my shoulder. I bowl a lot too. I train well and know how to take care. My coach Mahendra Singh Chauhan in Jamnagar would make us run and field; only then you can bat. In the first four years, I would only field a lot. He would seem stern, doesn’t show expressions but he is very helpful. He was very good.
"I can’t tell people daily what I work on to improve fielding or whatever. I am not the type of individual who feels the need to tell people daily how hard I am working. I agree I am a bit of a natural in fielding but there would be wear and tear in the shoulder for anyone who has played so many years. I work hard to maintain it. I believe that if my shoulder remains good, I can keep on playing cricket for many years to come."
Jadeja said he is not someone who does "high-intensity" training when it comes to fielding. "I tell the fielding coach R Sridhar that I won’t take hard hits in training. I would be happier getting injured in a match than in training. I tell him to give relatively slow catches, I will manage in the match. I know how to react in a match situation. Because in the past, I have been drained out during fielding training with knocks on my fingers. Then, in the match, I would be worried ‘oh I hope that I don’t get it on the same spots again’. So, I don’t do high-intensity training in fielding.
"I know my anticipation is very good in a match situation. I don’t know what others think about before the ball comes, but personally, after playing so many years, I know what the release shot of different batsmen is. And I can tell from how he is playing, where the ball is going to go. I have that extra fraction of a second and I move there quickly. So, at times, you will see me getting into positions and take ‘easy’ catches, but I know if it were someone else, it would have been a blinder as he hasn’t moved across quickly in anticipation.
"It does feel good when I am appreciated for my fielding, they might not see my hard work, but they know it. When I drop catches also, people don’t criticize, it’s more like, ‘hota hai, it happens’."