Day 4 of the first match India vs New Zealand test series, a well set Rahane gets dismissed by a turning Mitchell Santner delivery. The ball turned just enough, bounced a little, drew Rahane forward, and managed to kiss the outside edge of his bat and an alert Ross Taylor completed a sharp catch in the slips.
At this stage, India were well ahead in the game, leading by 333. In walks Ravindra Jadeja, with his team in need of some quick runs, to set the game up with Rohit Sharma at the other end.
He began watchfully, rotating strike, swaying out of short deliveries from Neil Wagner. It was almost time for the tea break when he decided to cut loose. He unleashed a few big hits against Ish Sodhi, played some deft strokes against Santner and Boult. And within no time, he was nearing his half-century.
Credit is due to Rohit Sharma (68*), who while batting at the other end, kept the scorecard moving. When Virat Kohli declared the innings, right after Jadeja reached his fifty, you could see that the entire dressing room was elated for him, with Virat mimicking Jaddu’s sword-wielding celebrations.
Together with Sharma he had put on a 100 runs in a very short time, setting a huge target of 434 for the Kiwi Black Caps. Here was a cricketer, who has always been under criticism for his performances with the bat doing just what his team needed.
Jadeja’s return to form after first-class cricket
Jadeja, who has three triple hundreds in his first-class career, has time and again, been under the scanner, for not contributing enough with the bat for team India lower down the order. While there have been no questions about his bowling in home conditions, he had been dropped from the test squad a year ago for the tour of Sri Lanka, due to his lack of form and contribution as an all-rounder in the team.
He was going through a lean patch with the ball, he wasn’t picking enough wickets, struggling in overseas conditions. Neither was he scoring enough runs.
He was asked to go back and play some Ranji cricket and boy did that help him. He picked wickets in huge numbers for Saurashtra, performed well enough with the bat as well. Soon enough, deservedly, he was back in the mix for the test series at home against the Proteas. Along with Ashwin and Amit Mishra, he wreaked havoc on the South African middle order, helping India to a 3-0 series win. He ended the series with 23 wickets to his name, and an economy rate of under 2.
The way he bowls, his short, quick run-up, the variation of pace, the accuracy with line and length, he builds so much pressure from one end, it won’t be wrong to say he has had a big hand in Ashwin’s recent success. Batsmen find it very hard to pick him more often than not, there being so little difference in his action with his variations. Ask Faf du Plessis.
The tour to the Caribbean followed, where he played his first game in the third test match at St. Lucia. He picked up three wickets in the match, as he dried up the runs from one end while Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar and the pack obliterated the Windies batting line-up from the opposite end. He also added some quick-fire runs down the order in the second innings to set a mammoth total for the West Indians to chase. India won the match and the series 2-0, with the fourth match called off due to unplayable conditions.
Impressive with the bat and ball
Come the first match of the 3-game home series against Kiwis, he has again proved his worth in this line-up. When India were in a dangerous position in the first innings, with the Kiwis smelling blood on day one and the first session of day 2, he made an unbeaten 42, helping India cross the 300-run mark and also frustrating the New Zealanders with his last wicket partnership with Umesh Yadav.
His runs made sure the Kiwis had a sizeable total to chase down if they were going to set a first innings lead.
But Jadeja had different ideas altogether. Along with Ashwin, he took down the Kiwi batting line-up one by one, making sure India had a 56-run lead at the end of the Kiwi first innings. He went on to claim another 5-wicket haul, his fifth in 18 tests. The highlight of his bowling performance being the dismissal of three Kiwi batsmen – Mark Craig, Ish Sodhi and Trent Boult, in a single over.
In the Indian second innings, he helped set up the target with his unbeaten fifty, after Pujara (78) and Vijay (76) had laid the platform.
When Team India came out to bowl in the final session of day 4, Ashwin made light work of the Kiwi top-order by dismissing Guptill and Latham cheaply, before getting captain Williamson LBW. Ashwin might have picked up the wickets, but Jadeja made sure there was no release in pressure from the other end. His figures of 14 overs, 10 maidens with just 8 runs conceded, at the end of day 4, tell the story.
He started off right on the money on the final day, keeping the heat on, on the Kiwis, and crucially picking up the wicket of a well-set and dangerous looking Luke Ronchi. He dried up runs from one end as Ashwin and Mohammed Shami cleaned up the Kiwi batting line-up helping India to a 197-run victory. He was truly deserving of his Man of the Match award.
Sir Jadeja, as he is lovingly called, deserves plaudits for his performances, for his contributions. He may be criticised, he may be spoken about in a distasteful sense, but he does not give up. He comes back every time, harder than before. A warrior in a true sense, a champion!