Jadeja in the second phase of his career
Thanks to the IPL auctions, Ravinder Jadeja has become the latest million-dollar baby of Indian cricket. Teams fought with each other to procure his services for the fifth edition of the IPL and eventually Chennai Super kings outbid the rest in a secret ballot. Life seems to have come a full circle for Jadeja-not too long ago he was crucified by one and sundry for his inability to hit sixes while batting lower down the order, which eventually led to his exclusion from the side. The fact that he was contributing with the ball and also in the field didn't matter much. Team India had found a better player in Yusuf Pathan, who then replaced him in the World Cup.
Jadeja had to reinvent his batting and discover the fifth gear. He did that and a lot more in the fourth edition of the IPL. He cleared the fence with consummate ease. His success and, perhaps, more importantly his new found ability to hit sixes got him back into the Indian team. He hasn't looked back since.
Jadeja, as a cricketer, has now entered the second phase of his career. Since he's been a regular in the side for a while, it's time he assumed a bigger role. Precisely why, this ongoing tour to Australia is his litmus test. Besides hitting the long ball, the other criticism Jadeja faced early on was his inability to handle short-pitched stuff and quality fast bowling. He may have silenced his critics about his six-hitting ability, but the final verdict on the latter is yet to come out. Conceivably then, this tour ought to be the clincher-there have been a few occasions when the top order faltered and he was required to do the repair job. So far he hasn't shown signs of constructing a big innings and hence must turn this around soon.
Also, one would have thought that skipper Dhoni might be tempted to promote him as a pinch-hitter to capitalize the power-play overs. But he has failed to instill the belief that merits a promotion in the batting order.
Even his bowling, which is tailor made for dusty surfaces in the subcontinent, has been put to stern test. Jadeja has the knack of bowling quicker and flatter in the air, extracting something from dry surfaces and thereby making it tougher for the batsmen to score runs. The lack of bounce also works as an ally to keep the batsman quiet. But the surfaces in Australia aren't offering Jadeja any assistance, until of course he varies his pace and flight judiciously.
Also, the even bounce seemed to be working against him, for it's always easier to play horizontal bat shots when the bounce is true. It's also easier to get under the ball to find the aerial route. He's done well with the ball sporadically but consistentcy is going to be the key.
He's one of the most improved cricketers in the recent past. But, he must pass this crucial test Down Under to be a part of India's scheme of things for the next World Cup, which is also, as luck would have it, slated to happen in Australia, in 2015.
More about Aakash ChopraAakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test Cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for the country in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after the legendary Eknath Solkar. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. A grand total of 783 runs came off Chopra's bat in Delhi's title-winning Ranji Trophy in 2007-08. Chopra currently plays for the Rajasthan Royals of the Indian Premier League and represents Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy, after having played for Delhi for over a decade. He also amassed a massive total of 734 runs in Rajasthan’s Ranji victory in the year 2010-11. In 2009, Chopra turned author with Beyond the Blues: A First-Class Season Like No Other. The book garnered critical appreciation while Cricket Pundits like Suresh Menon claimed it to be "the best book written by an Indian test cricketer” in his review for www.cricinfo.com. Aakash continues to tell the story of Indian cricket, its frustrations and fantasies, through his popular weekly column in The Hindustan Times, www.yahoo.com, www.cricketnext.com, sports magazines and through various TV shows.
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