Ravindra Jadeja, the Batsman, is Finally Here
The credibility of an all-rounder can be hardly questioned if he has over 5000 runs and 400 wickets in first-class cricket at excellent averages of 46.68 and 23.72 respectively.
However, these numbers hardly matter if he fails to replicate his all-round success at the international level. That in turn changes his role in the team. From an all-rounder, he is often reduced to a batsman who can bowl or a bowler who can bat, depending upon the area he flourishes in the most.
While he made his mark with the ball having claimed 111 wickets in 25 Tests at an impressive average of 24.07, he failed to deliver as a batsman as returns of 848 runs at a meagre average of 26.50 would suggest. Not only that, these runs included only four scores of fifty or more in a total of 38 innings.
In fact, expecting a century from him seemed like a distant dream. Make no mistake, he has three triple centuries in first class cricket. But, here, he was struggling to cross even the 50-run mark.
However, things started changing for him since 2017 and, two years down the line, it seems like his transformation into a quality batsman at the international level is finally complete as he scored his 11th Test fifty on Friday in the first match of the ongoing Test series against West Indies in Antigua.
Over the last couple of years, he has developed an excellent quality of adding crucial runs down the order and his innings of 60* against Bangladesh at Hyderabad in 2017 could be referred to as the point where all of it began
Along with claiming 54 wickets at an average of 23.05, Jadeja had smashed 328 runs at an average of 41.00 in the space of just 10 matches during that year. These runs included four fifties as well, which was equal to his tally of half-centuries during the first four years of his career.
Thus, the batsman in Jadeja had started showing what he was capable of. However, the real test of his temperament was yet to come. He had underperformed in foreign conditions for long and India's heavy overseas tour scheduling in 2018 meant only one spinner between him and Ravichandran Ashwin was going to make the final XI.
As expected, Ashwin's reputation nullified Jadeja's chances of getting picked and, hence, he didn't get to play a single match during India's tour of South Africa.
Even though he was picked to play in the following one-off Test against Afghanistan at home, he was once again made to sit out during the major part of the following Test series in England.
He made quite a statement with that knock in tough overseas conditions. The way he batted with the tail was tremendous
Moroever, he followed that up with his maiden Test century, an unbeaten knock of 100, against West Indies at Rajkot. Jadeja picked up a total of four wickets to go with his batting exploits in the match as well.
However, the team management was still not sure about his abilities in overseas conditions and Ashwin started ahead of him once again in the Test series Down Under.
But the management did choose to turn towards him in the third Test at Melbourne. Although he failed to deliver in that match with single-digit scores of four and five across both innings, he made amends in the next match at Sydney with an excellent knock of 81 runs while batting at No 8 once again.
He is ahead of batsmen like Rishabh Pant, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Quinton de Kock and Tim Paine in that respect. Hence, that tells a lot about the way he has improved himself as a batsman.
The most fascinating part about his batting in the last couple of years has been his ability to soak in pressure. His unbeaten knock of 86 against England at The Oval last year came under under a lot of pressure.
India were six down for 160 when he walked out to bat and then he added 77 runs with Hanuma Vihari and 55 more runs with the tail to stretch India's score to 292. His knock of 63* against Australia in Dharamsala back in 2017 is another instance of his fighting ability under pressure.
And if these knocks weren't enough, he showed his ability in the ODI format too.
Jadeja had also played an impressive knock of 54 off just 50 deliveries against the same opponents in the warm-up fixture before the World Cup. All other Indian batsmen had failed to cope with the tricky conditions but Jadeja surprised everyone and showed that he had both technique and temperament like other quality batsmen.
The 30-year-old has now walked into India's XI in the ongoing first Test against West Indies as the first-choice player ahead of Ashwin. A year back, he had no chance of piping a player of Ashwin's calibre.
However, it is hard to ignore him now as he is in top-notch all-round form. Hence, the hard work he has done to improve his batting during the last couple of years is finally paying off