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The batter in Ravindra Jadeja, a warrior by name, a saviour by game

Last updated on 24 Feb 2024 | 08:14 AM
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The batter in Ravindra Jadeja, a warrior by name, a saviour by game

How vital is Jadeja's batting? As critical as his bowling

"India are in deep trouble at 33/3 at the end of the ninth over, and Ravindra Jadeja walks in at number five."

At the end of the day, he is on an unbeaten 110, and India have posted a respectable total of 326/5.

This was India's scenario in the first innings of the Rajkot Test against England. Yashasvi Jaiswal might have taken the limelight by scoring his second double ton of the series in the second innings. 

It was still that first-innings century from Jadeja that gave India the first advantage. 

The left-hander received a bit of slack because of the run-out commotion. Batting on 99, looking to reach the milestone, he ran out Sarfaraz Khan on debut for 62. But even that mistake can’t take away much of how Jadeja saved India. 

And it isn’t a one-off incident, either. In case you didn't know, Jadeja, the batter, has become a vital cog for India, especially since 2022. 

His prowess as a bowler was never in doubt. However, a few questions were raised over his batting at one point. Why wouldn't they? He is a batter with three triple centuries in first-class before making his Test debut. 

Here's an anecdote: Jadeja made his debut against England on December 13th, 2012. Before his debut, he started with a triple against Gujarat (301*) in the 2012/13 season. He suffered a few low blows (13, 4, 5, & 0). But in his last three innings before his India debut read 331, 70, and 68.

Two triple centuries in a span of six innings that, too, by a bowling all-rounder, anyone would hand a debut for that kind of player with my eyes shut. India did no different. 

However, he couldn't replicate his heroics with the bat in his initial few years. He struggled to score half-centuries. To be precise, till 2015, he had only one 50+ score in 24 innings, averaging just 21.5 while proving to be an asset with the ball.

For a batter with two triple tons in six innings, nowhere that is enough. 

The runs couldn't hide from Jadeja for too long. In the next three years, from 2016 to 2018, Jadeja averaged 40.5 in 35 innings. His first century came in 2018 against the West Indies on his home ground in Rajkot. From there on, Jaddu was consistently among runs. In the last three years, since 2022, he is averaging 50.6 with three centuries and three fifties. 

Among 16 Indian batters who have played ten-plus innings in Tests since 2022, only three batters average above 45, and Jadeja is one among them. Only Yashasvi Jaiswal (71.75) and Rishabh Pant (61.8) average above Jaddu.

A first innings hero

In Tests since 2022, Jaddu has scored 810 runs in 18 innings. Of those, 93.3% of his runs, which is 756 runs, have come in the first innings. He has batted 13 innings, averaging 68.7 in the first, compared to 10.8 in the second, in five outings. His second innings game needs a massive improvement, but, as of now, his first innings record compensates for that.

Among number five or lower batters who have played 10+ innings in this period, Jadeja's first innings average of 68.7 is the third-best — a testimony of his greatness with the bat. 

Overall, his average is the second-best among Indians who have scored 100+ runs, behind Jaiswal (77.7 in 7 innings). If we filter among Indian batters who have faced ten-plus innings, he is the best by a mile.

Just to prove, Kohli stands second with 49.6. 

A saviour for India in the first innings

A warrior by nature, Jadeja has been India's saviour on most occasions in recent times. In this series, the third Test was the second time in as many attempts that he saved India from deep waters. Though the middle-order batter did not score a century in the first Test, he did play a crucial part in the first innings. 

Coming into bat at number six when India were 223/4 in the first innings, Jadeja piled on a crucial 87. By stitching partnerships of 65 with KL Rahul for the fifth wicket, followed by 68 with KS Bharat for the sixth wicket, and a 78-run stand with Axar for the eighth wicket, Jadeja took India's total to 436 before being dismissed. 

India may have lost that match, but Jadeja found success once again as a batter when India needed the most. 

It is just not in these two situations. In Tests since 2022, Jadeja hasn't batted above five. This means his entry point would be at the fall of the third wicket or lower. He came to bat in 12 out of the 13 innings (in the first innings only) when India lost three for less than or equal to 250. 

Even in the rescheduled fifth Test in Birmingham against England, Jadeja came into bat when India were 98/5. He and Rishabh Pant joined hands and scored centuries to help India post 416, which looked distant when he stepped in. 

How good a saviour has he been? If you ask, I would say a jolly good!

Just stating some instances won't help the cause. Only when we compare the performances of other countries' number five or lower batters when they have come into bat in this situation gives us better clarity. 

In Tests since 2022, Jadeja averages 65.4 in 12 innings when he comes to bat within a score of 250 or less. In the same period, among batters who have come into bat in this situation ten-plus times, none matches Jadeja's average. 

Not the modern-day batter

Jadeja is a batter who belongs to the old-school mould. In this era, Bazball has set examples of aggressive batting, and people lose patience when there is a slow passage of play. On the other hand, you have a batter like Jadeja, who averages (50.6) higher than his strike rate (49.4) in Tests since 2022. 

From that time frame, only in three innings out of 18, he has a strike rate of over 50. His fastest innings came against Australia in 2023, scoring 48 of just 51 balls (94.1). Not just that, Jadeja has hit three centuries, and each of those has been slower than the previous one. In fact, all of his four 100s have followed the same pattern. 

So, does strike rate really matter in Tests? Jadeja, scoring centuries for fun, would say, na, don't care! 

There are always talks about Jadeja, the bowler, being a match-winner, but the importance of his batting has gone unnoticed. It wouldn't be wrong to say that Jadeja, as a batter, is any less important than Virat Kohli in this period.

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