Ravindra Jadeja Finally Shows How He Can Be a Force for India in Test Cricket

Jaideep VaidyaAnalyst IJuly 20, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 20: India batsman Ravindra Jadeja hits out during day four of 2nd Investec Test match between England and India at Lord's Cricket Ground on July 20, 2014 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Ravindra Jadeja, the pantomime villain of the series, transformed Lord's into his backyard and treated international fast bowlers with utter disdain as he helped India grab control of the second Test on Day 4.

His alleged escapade with James Anderson off the pitch had dominated the build-up to the match, but Jadeja ensured that the only counterattacking action he took was in the middle in full public view at the home of cricket.

Whatever Anderson did or did not do last week in the players' tunnel at Trent Bridge, he probably didn't know that Jadeja belongs to a clan of people inhabiting the western and northern parts of India known as the Rajputs, who claim to be descendants of erstwhile Hindu warriors.

Jadeja's lineage is proudly displayed in upper-case characters in his Twitter bio, which reads, "Indian cricketer, RAJPUT, horse rider."

By the end of Day 4 at Lord's everyone, including Anderson, knew the fact. 

When he walked out to bat at No. 8 on Sunday, in the morning session, India were precariously placed at 203 for six with a lead of just 179. The visitors had just lost their skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and all-rounder Stuart Binny in quick succession, in contrasting circumstances.

Liam Plunkett ended MS Dhoni's resistance.
Liam Plunkett ended MS Dhoni's resistance.Stu Forster/Getty Images

Dhoni had fallen after an uncharacteristically defensive and watchful innings of 19 off 86 balls. The Indian captain had suppressed his naturally attacking instinct in a bid to safeguard his wicket and support Murali Vijay (95).

He had done well to survive a probing end to Day 3 and an equally testing start to Day 4 provided by the English bowlers, but the smallest of lapses in concentration resulted in him edging Liam Plunkett to the slips, without doing much good to India's lead.

The patience of Binny, the next man in, lasted only nine balls as he saw his opportunity to attack part-time spinner Moeen Ali and ended up skying the ball, only to be caught brilliantly by Alastair Cook.

Thus, it would have been easy for Jadeja to be confused as to what approach he should take. Should he, like his skipper, play an unnatural defensive innings and try to preserve his wicket, or should he go by his instincts and play in his innate attacking manner, at the risk of losing his wicket early and potentially costing his team the match?

Fortunately for India, Jadeja isn't much of a thinker.

His intent was clear on the sixth delivery he faced, as he stepped down the track to Ali and cracked the ball wide of mid-off for four. The very next delivery, he attempted a similar shot that found a thick outside edge and flew high into the air on the off side, but landed before the point fielder could get to it.

Jadeja's intent was clear from the very start of his innings.
Jadeja's intent was clear from the very start of his innings.Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Outrageous is a word that is often associated with Jadeja's style of batting and the 25-year-old stepped it up a notch soon enough, as he waltzed down the track to his nemesis Anderson and nonchalantly drove him through the covers for four.

Stuart Broad was then treated like a club cricketer as Jadeja produced a gorgeous straight drive that sailed one bounce for four, before playing one of the most fluent and classy pulls to the midwicket fence that you would ever see.

It was the kind of innings that you couldn't help but admire and enjoy as long as he was connecting with the ball handsomely and getting boundaries, but the moment he miscued a shot and lost his wicket, it would induce as many abuses as it would cheers.

Fortunately for India, Jadeja isn't much of a thinker.

Even if he had gotten out like Binny, he wouldn't think twice before attempting the same the very next innings. As luck would have it, Sunday turned out to be his day as he notched up his first Test half-century in just 42 deliveries.

His celebration on reaching the landmark is one to savour for years as he twirled his bat around like a sword looking towards a delighted Indian dressing room. The Rajput was on his horse and he was enjoying the battle, so much so that Anderson was further humiliated with a slash down the ground and a mighty cut for a couple more boundaries.

No matter who goes on to win the legal battle, this round of cricket at Lord's had only one winner.

Jadeja shared a potentially match-winning 99-run eighth-wicket partnership with fellow all-rounder Bhuvneshwar Kumar (52) to help India to 342 in their second innings, thereby setting England a target of 319.

He lost his wicket exactly as you would have expected—a miscued pull that found the top edge and was caught, but only after he had scored 68 absolutely crucial runs from just 57 deliveries.

Jadeja used the rough to trouble the English batsmen with the ball.
Jadeja used the rough to trouble the English batsmen with the ball.Gareth Copley/Getty Images

If that wasn't enough, his wily left-arm orthodox spin helped reduce England to 105 for four at stumps, as he picked up the wicket of England opener Sam Robson and threatened to take many more.

He was smartly exploiting the rough marks created by the bowlers' footmarks and his potency will only be higher on Day 5 as the pitch wears out further.

If his exploits on Day 4 put India en route to their first Test win away from home in three years, Jadeja has a chance of taking his team past the finish line on Monday with the ball.

More importantly, India have found in him a genuine batting all-rounder who can perform both home and away. His fearless brand of cricket could lead to a few disappointing scores and dismissals, but when his stars are aligned he can single-handedly change the complexion of a game with bat and ball, as he did on Sunday.

Jadeja has come a long way from being India's most mocked cricketer on social media when he first came on to the scene, to someone who is finally getting the respect and recognition that his talent deserves.

True to his cocky nature, he reminded everyone about it by posting the following message on Twitter after Sunday's play:

This roughly translates into: "Do not pass an opinion on me because my time will change and so will your opinion."

Point taken, Sir.