Among all bowlers who have picked up 50 or more wickets in Asia, Ravindra Jadeja’s average of 15.60 is the best by a fair amount of distance with the legendary Richie Benaud coming a distant second at 19.32.
After contributing immensely to India’s sterling comeback on the third day of the first Test against New Zealand, the left-arm spinner cited his jaw-dropping record in the subcontinent to the extensive experience acquired on ‘under-prepared’ pitches.
Meeting the press at the end of the day, the 27-year old combined logic with unbridled humour while offering an explanation on the home team’s confident body language, despite finding themselves in a spot of bother when Kane Williamson and Tom Latham resumed their commendable partnership.
Evoking bundles of laughter, Jadeja said in Hindi, “Ab turning track pe, jaisa ki maine kaha ki ek partnership hoti hai. Uske baad naya batsman koi bhi jayega, uske liya itna foot marks dekh ke udhar unki…...Udhar hi wo thoda ghabra jayenge ki itne foot marks saamne hain to ekdum hi confidently defend nahin kar payenge.”
Admittedly, the gist will not have the same effect if translated into English. However, loosely, he pointed out that a new batsman would immediately look at the rough around the stumps after arriving onto the middle and exclaim in exasperation. Though Jadeja stopped short of saying it, the sentence could be completed with a four-letter expletive.
Following Ravichandran Ashwin’s breakthrough to send back the settled Latham, the Saurashtra cricketer preyed on the Kiwi middle-order’s hesitancy and targeted their pads in a relentless manner. While his spin partner employed significant flight to lure the batsmen, he pinned them down with his accuracy. Eventually, another five-wicket haul was there for the taking with four of those scalps being lbw.
When asked about the reason behind his unprecedented success on spin-friendly Asian pitches, Jadeja revealed, “There is no mystery. We didn't have very well-prepared grounds and pitches and those are the kinds I've been brought up on where there were no groundsmen and we were just practicing.”
“The facilities we had were of that kind. So having played on such pitches, I've got an idea of how to bowl, which areas to bowl on, what speed to bowl at. From my childhood to under-17 or under-19 till now, I've played on turners or unprepared pitches.”
He also credited coach Anil Kumble‘s timely piece of advice when wickets were of imminent need. Operating from different angles around the bowling crease, the metronomic bowler induced doubts by maximizing the assistance provided by the surface.
Jadeja affirmed, “He (Kumble) told me to go wide on the crease and bowl around the sixth stump for the left-hand batsmen because there was rough there. He told me to target putting as many balls as possible in that rough because from there, some balls were turning and some were going straight.”
“Ashwin and I spoke of bowling at the stumps. Adjust our lines so that after the turn the ball ends up on the stumps. We knew we'll get maximum chances if we kept the threat of lbw or bowled alive.”