What makes Ravindra Jadeja invaluable to Team India

Ravindra Jadeja
Ravindra Jadeja

Ravindra Jadeja has expectedly made a India's playing XI for the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final in Southampton, which starts on Friday,

Sanjay Manjrekar and a few pundits didn't name Ravindra Jadeja in their likely India XIs. They say they have their reasons for the same. But Jadeja's place in the team should never be in doubt, as he has proved his credentials in all forms of the game.

Earlier this year, during the IPL, Ravindra Jadeja single-handedly demolished Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) with an all-round outing. The all-rounder was making a return after a three-month injury layoff.

Indian captain Virat Kohli, who ended up on the losing side that day, expressed his elation at Jadeja’s efforts, saying:

“Jadeja’s ability has been there for everyone to see. I am very happy to see him perform with the bat, ball and on the field. After two months, he will be back playing for India, and it is always a pleasure to see your premier all-rounder do well with the bat. When he plays well and is confident, it lets out many opportunities."

Kohli has his reasons for rating Ravindra Jadeja so highly. The all-rounder has been one of the team's premier performers, especially in the longest format of the game, in the last five years.

Most Test runs for India since June 2016:

Ravindra Jadeja has better numbers than several specialist batters.
Ravindra Jadeja has better numbers than several specialist batters.

In Test matches during the same period, only one other Indian bowler, Ravindra's Jadeja's spin twin Ravichandran Ashwin, has had better bowling numbers than the left-arm spinner.

Most wickets for India since June 2016

Ravindra Jadeja has been the second-highest wicket-taker for India since June 2016 after R Ashwin.
Ravindra Jadeja has been the second-highest wicket-taker for India since June 2016 after R Ashwin.

In 2020, Wisden named Ravindra Jadeja the second most valuable Test cricketer of the 21st century, after Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan. Thus, it would be a surprise if Ravindra Jadeja is not one of the first names written on the Indian team sheet for every Test.

Ravindra Jadeja vs other top all-rounders in the last five years

Let's see how Ravindra Jadeja measures against some of the top all-rounders in recent years.

Batting numbers since June 2016

Ben Stokes has made the most impact as a Test batsman in the last five years.
Ben Stokes has made the most impact as a Test batsman in the last five years.

Although it can be argued that the number of not outs boosts Ravindra Jadeja’s numbers, the fact remains that he bats with the tail and often has to score runs at a brisk pace, which means he has to take more risks than other all-rounders.

Bowling numbers since June 2016

Ravindra Jadeja could walk into any side as their lead spinner.
Ravindra Jadeja could walk into any side as their lead spinner.

In the 11 Tests Ravindra Jadeja has played away from home in this period, he has averaged over 43 with the bat and 26 with the ball.

Shakib Al Hasan has impressive numbers, but he has played fewer matches than Jadeja. The three players who truly stand out as all-rounders are Ravindra Jadeja, Ben Stokes and Jason Holder.

While Stokes has batted in the middle order and played more impactful knocks, Ravindra Jadeja’s cameos down the order have benefitted India more often than not. Jadeja is set to play at No. 7 in the WTC final against New Zealand.

As a bowler, Ravindra Jadeja is in a different league altogether. And then there is his otherworldly fielding prowess. Throughout the game’s rich history, there haven't seen many better fielders than Jadeja.

Since 2016, Team India have enjoyed almost a four-year-long run as the top-ranked Test side, and Ravindra Jadeja has undoubtedly been one of their key players.

Ravindra Jadeja – An unsung hero in the 2020-21 Australia tour

Despite having two of the best spinners in the world, India have hesitated to play both Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin in Tests outside Asia. In Australia, the duo played together in two Tests, and the results were there for all to see.

The tour is mostly remembered for the impressive performances by India's inexperienced players. But Ravindra Jadeja was an unsung hero who transformed India’s fortunes after the Adelaide debacle.

Jadeja had a good white-ball tour before suffering an injury that ruled him out of the Adelaide Test. After Kohli returned home, Ravindra Jadeja replaced the regular captain in the Melbourne Test and made an immediate impact.

The ghosts of ‘36’ in Adelaide were immediately buried in the first session of the Boxing Day Test. In what could have been a nasty collision, Ravindra Jadeja made the catch of Matthew Wade look rather easy.

Stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane did not utilise Ravindra Jadeja, the bowler, much on Day One of that Test. He only bowled five and a half overs, but Jadeja ensured that the opposition tail was not allowed to wag.

Ravindra Jadeja made a more telling impact with his batting. When Rishabh Pant fell at the stroke of tea on Day Two, Australian were well and truly back in the game. But Jadeja added 121 runs for the sixth wicket with his captain to turn the game on its head.

Ravindra Jadeja countered a barrage of short-pitched balls, exhibiting monk-like patience to craft a 159-ball 57. It was a knock that the situation demanded, yet it was one that was completely against his natural aggressive instincts.

In the second innings, Ravindra Jadeja bowled less than half of what Ashwin did but got the crucial wickets of Mathew Wade and Tim Paine. His forte remained his accuracy and variation in pace. Some of the balls turned, and some didn't, which was the hallmark of his success.

Ajinkya Rahane, Jasprit Bumrah, R Ashwin and Mohammed Siraj are considered the main architects of India’s historic MCG win. But Ravindra Jadeja slipped in with match figures of three for 43 and a 57-run knock that could be considered more valuable than a century.

After two quiet Tests, Steve Smith rediscovered his mojo in Sydney. So, there had to be a spectacular effort to send him back. In the Ashes and in several other instances, Smith is known to hit 'video game' mode when batting with the tail. He was starting to switch gears, and every run would have mattered in a low-scoring series.

But a flat direct hit from Ravindra Jadeja from deep square-leg cut short Smith's innings. Jadeja’s brilliant effort saved India several runs as Australia were folded out for 338.

Ravindra Jadeja effortlessly makes one-stump-throws look like cakewalks. Nevertheless, the effort to dismiss Smith was special. In an ideal world, the wicket should have gone to Jadeja’s column.

“I will rewind and play this run-out, as this is my best effort. A direct hit from outside the 30-yard circle, and that’s like a moment that gives you that satisfaction. Three or four-wicket hauls are fine, but this run-out will stay with me,” said Ravindra Jadeja after the day’s play.

Ravindra Jadeja also got a four-for in that innings. The inroads he created in the Australian middle-order left India a fighting chance to win the Test. Though he sounded dismissive of his wicket haul as if it were something routine, three or four-wicket hauls do not come easy for spinners in Australia.

The great Nathan Lyon managed only a three-wicket haul from the 190-odd overs he bowled in the series.

India didn’t bat well in their first innings, but Ravindra Jadeja’s breezy 28 not out with a broken hand helped India eat into Australia's lead. With his fracture confirmed, Jadeja played no further role in that Test and was out of action for three months.

Incredible efforts from Rishabh Pant, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari helped India save the Sydney Test. Jadeja was padded up to come out to bat, but that was eventually not required. If the situation had come down to that, it would have been one of the sport’s most incredible lion-hearted efforts.

If you have three first-class triple hundreds at any level of sport, then you ought to be a serious batter. Indian selectors may not have to look beyond Ravindra Jadeja to quench their search for 3D players.

In Jadeja’s mind, he was always the 'all-rounder' the world thinks he has now evolved into, even before 2008, when Shane Warne called Jadeja a 'rockstar'.

Ashwin focuses a lot on the technical side of his game. As a spinner, he reaps the rewards through his homework and meticulous planning. Unlike his spin-twin, Ravindra Jadeja keeps things uncluttered and straightforward. There are no announcements of any teesra or inventive deliveries, and yet he remains as successful. So is the case with his batting.

“The higher I bat, the more responsibility I take. Batting with a batsman, you talk to them, get the confidence. And most importantly, I have time to play a proper innings. If I can initially get that start with a batsman, I can play in my flow. The more I bat higher up, the better it is,” Jadeja recently said about his promotion in the batting order.

India will hope Ravindra Jadeja produces a memorable all-round effort in the WTC final against New Zealand.

Much credit in Jadeja’s transformation as an all-rounder goes to MS Dhoni, who often bore the brunt of criticism when things went awry. But for Dhoni, Jadeja was the template of a selfless individual who could contribute in all three disciplines as and when asked for.

You give Dhoni what he wants, and he backs you to the hilt. In 2014, Dhoni went out of his way to square off against James Anderson, who was involved in a scuffle with Ravindra Jadeja during the first Test in Nottingham.

A fired-up Jadeja played the innings of a lifetime, targeting England’s premier bowler at Lord’s to bring India back to the game. The left-hander was one of the architects of the famous win. He smashed 68 off 57 balls and famously took out the 'sword' celebration, something Jadeja invariably does on reaching a batting milestone.

As a player, Ravindra Jadeja has indeed come a long way since.

We have all been guilty of trolling him. Long before we witnessed his sword celebration, the moniker ‘Sir’ stuck as a prefix to his name. What started as an attempt to ridicule his 'bits and pieces' abilities is now used more in affection.

A rough summer day in Jamnagar could see the mercury hit a fifty degrees Celcius. Yet a young Jadeja would dive on the rock-hard surfaces in the parched lands and return home with bloodied joints. He would get smacked by his coach for the smallest of errors. He saw hardships as a child very few did.

Yet, nothing affected him. Not even a loss in form or what Manjrekar and other 'pundits' think of him.

'From being christened as the 'Rockstar' to being mockingly knighted on social media to emerging as India’s most valuable Test player in the 21st century, Ravindra Jadeja has indeed carved a niche for himself.

India’s chances in the WTC final could depend on what their all-rounder conjures.

Edited by Bhargav
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