Ravindra Jadeja seems to have a love-and-hate relationship with the Orange Army (IYKYK). Let’s not get into what he was up to during his injury time-off and focus on how he tormented Sunrisers Hyderabad on Friday (April 21).
The 2022 edition of the Indian Premier League was a mess for Jadeja and Chennai Super Kings, but the ace all-rounder has turned his fortunes around this year, especially with the ball in hand. The batting is yet to click, but Jadeja, the bowler, seems to be having his best season.
The Super Kings returning to their den after three seasons has undoubtedly worked in his favour, and what we witnessed tonight was a typical CSK win. A team coming to Chepauk and getting choked by the spinners, that’s precisely what happened to SRH.
The moment there’s a bit of turn on offer, Jadeja becomes a different beast altogether. Hyderabad were 55/1 in seven overs when the left-arm spinner was introduced into the attack. He started with a seven-run over before getting rid of dangerous Abhishek Sharma in his very next over.
In his four-over spell, not once Jadeja went full and kept targeting those stumps. Abhishek was caught at long-on before Rahul Tripathi forced a slog-sweep but ended up top-edging it to the fielder at short fine leg. Mayank Agarwal did try to come down the track but Jadeja was having none of it, pulling his length even further and getting him stumped.
The 34-year-old finished with figures of 3/22, and the Sunrisers were reduced to 97/5 by the time he was done with his four overs. The likes of Akash Singh, Maheesh Theekshana and Matheesha Pathirana played their part to perfection, and Hyderabad could only manage 134/7 in their 20 overs, which Devon Conway and Co. chased down with utmost ease.
“Coming to Chennai, looking at the wicket gives me a lot of happiness. You know it's going to turn. I had in my mind to not bowl too full. Important to keep wicket to wicket,” said Jadeja at the post-match presentation ceremony after receiving his player-of-the-match award.
It’s only been six games, but Jadeja has already scalped nine wickets at an average of 15.8 and a strike rate of 14, the best for him ever in an IPL season. His economy of 6.8 is also his third-best. What’s more, MS Dhoni has used him perfectly this season.
Jadeja has bowled all of his 21 overs in the middle phase (7-15) and picked up the most number of wickets in this period. Amongst bowlers who have bowled at least 10 overs in this phase, Jadeja has the best balls/boundary (14).
1/28 v Gujarat Titans, 0/14 v Lucknow Super Giants, 3/20 v Mumbai Indians, 2/21 v Rajasthan Royals, 0/37 v Royal Challengers Bangalore and 3/22 v Hyderabad - Jadeja has been extremely consistent with the ball this season. In these six innings, three times he has ended up with an economy of less than 6. Even in the high-scoring affair against RCB, Jadeja had the best economy for a CSK bowler.
In IPL 2023, Chennai have the worst economy (10.6) and bowling average (54.7) in the first six overs, but those numbers turn upside down once the powerplay is over. They have picked up the most wickets (21) in the middle phase and have the best balls/boundary (8.8). And, Jadeja has played a massive role in that.
As a result, Chennai have the best economy (9.1) in death overs (16-20). You look at their games against Lucknow and Mumbai, and it’s their bowling in the middle overs that have won them both those encounters. Chasing 217, Lucknow were 80/1 at the end of six overs but then could only get 70/4 in the next nine overs. Meanwhile, MI were 61/1 at one stage but lost the plot in the middle phase, losing five wickets for 48 runs.
All this wouldn’t have been possible without Jadeja. What’s even better is his record against left-handers this year. Against them in IPL 2022, Jadeja had an economy of 8.2 and didn’t take a single wicket despite bowling 13.3 overs, but this year, he has managed four scalps in 6.2 overs at an economy of 6.9. And he has been able to do that because he has hardly bowled anything on the stumps.
Now imagine there was a possibility that Jadeja wouldn’t even have been a part of the CSK setup this year. He was appointed Chennai’s captain last year, but we all know what happened next.
Statistically, there was only one season since his debut where the southpaw had scored less runs – 2018 – when he only amassed 89 runs. But what’s worse, in 2022, Jadeja averaged 19.33 and scored those runs at a strike rate of 118.37. With the ball, he averaged 49.6 and could only pick up five wickets in 10 innings.
There were also rumours of a rift with the management, and it looked like Jadeja was on his way out. That’s when Dhoni and CEO Kasi Viswanathan had to step in and convince Jadeja to stay with the side. Luckily, things worked out, and now everything seems fine between the two parties.
"CSK management and the owners never put any pressure on any players. Even after 11 years with CSK, they have the same attitude and approach. They'll never make you feel low even when you aren't performing well," Jadeja told Star Sports.
Dhoni knows the importance of having a player like Jadeja in his team. Someone who can give you four overs of tight-lined spin and is also a world-class fielder, Jadeja is a dream for any captain. The left-hander hasn’t fired in the batting department, but despite that has two player-of-the-match awards in this competition.
Jadeja and Chennai are a match made in heaven, and together they are even more stronger. He knows it, the franchise knows it, and the opponents do too.
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