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RAvindra Jadeja

Making a point with the bat – The Ravindra Jadeja factor

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Eden Park – Run chase – Ravindra Jadeja

There must be some unfathomable relationship between the three. With New Zealand leading 2-0 in the five-match series in 2014, chasing 315 in a must-win game at Eden Park, Jadeja came in and played a stupendous knock and made sure that India did not lose the match (it ended in a tie). Yesterday, he came close to repeating the feat, only to run out of partners in the end.

It is not just a case with Eden Park. Whenever the team has found itself in adverse situations, Jadeja has done extremely well with the bat, especially in crucial matches.

To understand his performances broadly, Jadeja’s white-ball career could be divided into three parts. 2013-2015, 2015-2018 and 2018 to the present day.

2013-2015 was easily the best phase of Jadeja’s career so far. He averaged 36.3 in those three years batting at number seven or eight. However, between January 2016 and September 2018, his average dropped down to 22.

Though Ravindra Jadeja was dropped from the One Day International team post the 2017 Champions Trophy citing his inability to take wickets in the middle overs, the lack of runs as well in that period could have multiple reasons for it. One of the logical reasoning is minimal opportunities the lower order got with the bat in that period.

Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma averaged 85 and 117 respectively between 2016 and 2018. With a top-heavy batting line-up, Jadeja and other lower-order batsmen hardly get to bat regularly, and that could have affected their performance whenever they got the chance.

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However, ever since Ravindra Jadeja made a comeback into the team in September 2018, he has performed reasonably well enough to get picked ahead of either of the leg spinners due to his ability to bat.

In the 16 instances when he got to bat since September 2018, Jadeja has been involved in nine 40+ partnerships for the sixth, seventh and eighth wickets. Though India lost four out of the nine matches, it was Jadeja’s brilliance that got India close to victory in a few matches.

The World Cup semifinal tops the list. Coming in at 92-6, chasing 240, Jadeja played a remarkable knock when India looked down-and-out of the tournament. He single-handedly brought India back into the game and almost won it for the country. Jadeja scored 77 runs off 59 balls; got out in the 48th over as he had to score quickly with the asking rate climbing up.

In December 2019, Jadeja played a match-winning knock against West Indies in the series decider at Cuttack. He scored 39 off 31 balls while chasing 316. The way he batted with the tail was the best part. He made sure that he stayed till the end, unlike the semifinals. 

Similarly in January 2020, in a must-win game against Australia, Jadeja stitched a crucial partnership with KL Rahul for the sixth wicket. The duo took India to an unassailable total of 340, and it resulted in a win.

What makes Jadeja’s contribution all the more crucial is the absence of Hardik Pandya. Ever since Hardik broke through into the Indian team, the Baroda all-rounder has been a vital cog in the limited-overs set-up. Batting at number seven, his value as a lower-order batsman was giving tremendous balance to the captain and the team.

With him out of the team with a back-injury, India’s batting would have been even more fragile below number six, if they had played Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal along with three seamers. Here’s where Jadeja’s batting ability comes in.

Though Jadeja is not as prolific a hitter as Hardik is, he can be a handy number seven. Especially in ODIs, where there is enough time for him to settle in, he will be crucial in Hardik’s absence. Since the World Cup semifinal, Jadeja averages 58.66 with the bat striking at 93.12 in ODIs.

Hardik is anticipated to make a comeback before the T20I World Cup in September. But, India would not want to risk him early. Ideally, in his absence, the replacement needs game time too.

Since July 2019, Jadeja averages 28.50 and strikes at 123.91 in T20Is. It may not be as good as Hardik’s or any other number seven in the International circuit. But, he is the viable option for India for now.

As far as bowling is concerned, he has fared reasonably well in T20Is. Jadeja averages 21.12 giving away 6.25 runs per over in T20Is since July 2019. 

The focus now is on the T20 World Cup. And Jadeja might play every limited-over match in the lead-up. If and when Hardik comes back, he at number six followed by Jadeja at seven might give great balance for Virat Kohli going forward.