Ever since his debut in the longer format of the game in 2012 at Nagpur against England, it has been tough to come around to the idea of Jadeja as a Test cricketer. However, consistent performances with the ball in the subcontinent where he took 24 wickets in his first five Tests helped him keep his place in the XI. But he was not able to stitch together a memorable performance with the bat. All that though changed at Lord’s as a counter-attacking 57-ball 68-run knock helped change the complexion of the game in India’s favour against England on Sunday.
The knock shows that the Saurashtra player is only growing as a cricketer and even though he might be the ‘rockstar’ for Shane Warne in T20 and one the most integral part of India’s ODI set-up, he is just 25. He is yet to face over 100 deliveries in a single innings and before this series he was not patient enough to face even fifty. His triple-century knocks in Ranji Trophy looked like an aberration when he was struggling to stay in the middle for long in South Africa and New Zealand. At Lord’s, even though he was not looking to stay in the middle for the long haul, his keenness to attack was apparent, one which paid off as well.
Despite the failures of Stuart Binny and MS Dhoni, Jadeja’s 99-run stand with Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave India not only a fighting chance but their run-a-ball stand arrested the momentum gained by England with three quick wickets. His knock was very similar to what Stuart Broad had done (74*) to India at Lord’s three years back. If Durban (6/138) was the match that affirmed Jadeja as a Test bowler, this 68-run knock should be regarded as a coming of age performance by him with the bat.
An unassuming and uncomplicated character on field and probably off field as well, a lot of Jadeja’s early achievements both in the domestic and international circuit had been undermined in the public sphere. For the major part of his career so far, he had been the butt of jokes and often ridiculed. His first Ranji triple century was looked at as a flash in the pan performance and his second shortly afterwards elicited similar reactions.
But, as the ‘Sir Jadeja’ memes did the rounds in the internet, he quietly built a reputation for being taken seriously. It was the IPL first and then the ODI exploits in Champions Trophy that forced critic and fans alike to see the 25-year-old in a different light. The first such performance came at Durban where he played that game at the expense of India’s leading spinner Ravinchandran Ashwin. The Durban wicket had just a bit to keep Jadeja interested and it was not that he turned the ball square to claim his wickets, but he did just enough to fox six South African batsmen.
In New Zealand he showed glimpses that at he could be India’s last line of defence with the bat and in England, he is solidifying the claim well. Jadeja will have a major role to play on day five as well with the left-arm spinner expected to exploit the rough on the pitch and if he can hand India a victory with the ball, it would safe to say that Jadeja will keep turning up for India in whites for a long time.