Since his half-century at the Lord’s and a five-for in Southampton during India’s tour of England last year, Ravindra Jadeja’s Test career took a grim turn. He didn’t play a single Test in Australia, and didn’t feature in the squads for the Tests in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. His form in ODIs, T20Is and the IPL pummelled too, as MS Dhoni found it harder and harder to justify Jadeja’s place in the XI.
He was in the team as an all-rounder – a left-arm spinner and a lower-order batsman, who was expected to give a late impetus to the innings or stick around with the tail. In Bangladesh, after India’s 1-2 series loss in the ODIs, Dhoni spoke out how Jadeja’s prolonged poor run, especially with the bat, was harming the team’s balance. This reflected in his bowling as well.
After being left out of the Sri Lanka series, Jadeja took some time off cricket. Then he resumed practice to prepare for the ensuing domestic season. As the Ranji Trophy began, he was ready, and how. In four matches, for Saurashtra, he picked up 38 wickets and scored three fifties, earning outright victories for his team on every occasion.
The Test call-up was imminent, and it came immediately, in the home series against South Africa. In the first Test, in Mohali, Jadeja ate up 92 balls on a turning wicket, scoring 38 out of India’s first innings total of 201. With the ball he picked up 3 for 55 as South Africa were skittled out for 184.
There was a marked difference in Jadeja’s demeanour – he was unflustered with the bat and patient with the ball. As India perched themselves into the driver’s seat with a second innings lead of 142 and eight wickets in hand, Jadeja spoke to BCCI.TV about his comeback Test and the rise in his confidence level.
This was your comeback Test, you got a helpful pitch to bowl on and you did pretty well. Not much more you can ask for!
Definitely. I had a great start to the season and that gave me a lot of confidence as a cricketer. When I got picked for this series, I was glad that the comeback call came at the beginning of the season, and against a very good team. I had decided before this series that I will play with the same composure and simplicity that I played with in the Ranji Trophy. I told myself that if I get a helpful pitch I would just try to land the ball in the right area and not worry about anything else.
In the few matches before you were dropped, there seemed to be restlessness in your batting. Yesterday during your 38 you looked very calm and mentally sorted. Is that the change you feel in yourself too?
I do. The confidence of doing well with the ball in the Ranji Trophy rubbed off on my batting and I scored three half-centuries. Having those runs under my belt had a calming effect on me when I came to bat here. It also helped that I scored those first-class fifties on turning wickets as well, hence when I came here, I was very clear as to how I must approach the innings. I knew I had to be patient on this wicket and bide my time. It was also important to take the advantage of the loose balls. I am glad I was able to do that.
Faf du Plessis got bowled to you shouldering arms. He completely misjudged the line and the spin of the ball. Talk about that wicket.
I hadn’t planned his wicket or anything but I knew that it was the fag end of the day – a very crucial phase in Test cricket when batsmen don’t like batting out there. The only plan I had was to make him play most of the balls. There was no point in bowling outside off and allowing him to leave balls. Also, when their spinners bowled with a semi-new ball, some deliveries turned sharp and others went in straight. I too had a semi-new ball at that time and I thought if I just bowl at the stumps an odd ball would take a sharp turn while one would straighten. Luckily for me, that’s exactly what happened. The first ball I bowled spun a bit and Faf got an outside edge. The next ball, he expected it to turn, and decided to leave it. But this one straightened and hit the stumps.
When you bowl on such helpful pitches, do you have to make a conscious effort of not getting over-excited and let the wicket to the work?
That’s true. Sometimes, even on a turning track there are phases when you don’t get wickets for 10-15 overs. This is the time when you have to be really patient. You cannot expect to get a wicket every other ball even on the most helpful pitch. You have to keep pitching the ball on the same spot for five-six overs and build the pressure. That’s what we three spinners – R Ashwin, Amit Mishra and I – discussed. We said, ‘When the wickets are not coming, let’s not panic and get wayward. Let’s stick to our spot persistently. When one wicket falls, we would, more often than not, get a couple more in quick succession’.
This was your first Test match under Virat’s captaincy. When you played under MS Dhoni, we would hear him instruct you constantly behind the wickets as to where and how to bowl. How different was it to play under Virat?
Whatever cricket I have played, it has been under Mahi bhai’s leadership. Yes, he used to constantly tell me how to bowl and what to do. Virat too was doing the same thing. He kept telling me how the batsman would play and where to land the ball. They both have their own styles of giving confidence to their players and bringing out the best in them. This is the beginning for me playing under Virat and I look forward to building a strong captain-bowler rapport with him in the future.