Let’s face it, even if Ravindra Jadeja had tried to change the pace of play and push on the accelerator in hope for some quick runs on Day 3 of the World Test Championship Final in Southampton, chances are he wouldn’t have survived long against some excellent New Zealand bowling.
Given the conditions on offer and the quality of the bowling on display when Jadeja walked out to bat, it would’ve been only a matter of time before he miscued one of those strokes and got out. As far as approach goes, it was perhaps an admission on his front that there wasn’t much that could have forced this New Zealand attack away from their unrelenting nature.
Playing a Test match after six months in conditions as challenging as those in Hampshire, one can understand why Jadeja would look underprepared and a little rusty at the crease, with his footwork indecisive and response to the ball not as assertive.
Given his progression, one could also understand if there is a desire within him to show the team management and the selectors ‘yes, I could bat like proper batsmen do’. Jadeja is at a stage where, although his numbers in the last few years are excellent, he needs a few more knocks of substance on foreign shores to prove himself a sure bet at No.7.
The bowling, the conditions, an extended break and his own career state might have all impacted Jadeja’s headspace. But there is still something to be said about Jadeja’s batting and approach, which has almost always looked a bit off while batting alongside the tail.
Ravindra Jadeja must shed the self-bubble and be more mindful of India’s tail
There’s a stark contrast in the way Ravindra Jadeja bats when he has a specialist batsman at the other end and when he does that with the lower-order players. He is more confident and positive in contrast to the reluctant, almost oblivious to the situation player, that he becomes near the end of the Indian innings. “Intent” can be a debatable term, but Jadeja almost goes into a self-bubble while batting with the tail.
During their ninth-wicket stand that lasted 35 balls, Jadeja allowed Ishant to take on nearly as many balls as himself, despite being the more capable batting partner. Ishant faced 16 of those deliveries and took strike for the start of three consecutive overs before Jamieson proved too good for him. On the very next ball, Jamieson dismissed Bumrah and by the following over, the entire Indian batting unit was dismissed.
A sense of ownership, control and a genuine effort to farm the strike was missing from Ravindra Jadeja, who’ll have to quickly resurrect his method of batting with the tail, especially overseas, given two things.
One, the moment Ashwin is dismissed, Jadeja would be left with one of the weakest tails in contemporary Test cricket – while Ishant faces a decimal over 18 balls per innings, the corresponding numbers of Bumrah (6.8) and Shami (9.8) are even worse. Second, where he stands as a batsman himself. Since 2018, Jadeja averages 52.86 runs per Test innings and wouldn’t want to miss out on runs or left stranded at one end.
India’s struggles with the tail – that is while batting and bowling both – is in itself a topic worth dwelling deeper on another day. But in Jadeja’s context, it’s simple that he can’t depend on others to sustain his stay at the crease.
At a time when he is in the pink of health with his batting, Ravindra Jadeja is expected to be clearer, proactive, sensible and flexible at the crease to maximise his ability every time he finds himself battling with the tail. It’s important for India that he does, as they go deeper into a difficult tour of England and travel to South Africa later in the year.