With an unbeaten 86 and the wicket of Moeen Ali, Jadeja made all the difference for India on Sunday. (Source: AP)
The man who loves his horses kept the wolf away from the Indian door. Had Ravindra Jadeja fallen early, had he not played his best Test knock, India would have been already buried in the Test. With India set to bat last, England, who are already 154 runs ahead with eight wickets intact, hold all the cards but Jadeja and the debutant Hanuma Vihari at least ensured the game wasn’t done and dusted already. Alastair Cook, though, seems determined to script a fairytale farewell.
When he got his fifty, Jadeja dusted off his bat before brandishing it: it would do as a metaphor for his career and for India’s desperate clawback attempt in this game. Every time it seemed England were in total control—after lunch on the first day, at stumps on the second day, India fought back. Though they might need to pull off a heist to turn this around.
Jadeja is a hit with the newspapers in Gujarat. He gives them news across genres: sports, religion, horses, food industry, lion selfies, and what not. A 375 km pilgrimage walk in the nights to Mata No Madh, a temple to the goddess Ashapura mata… health officers raiding his restaurant kitchen and fining it for lack of hygiene… forest officers fining him for selfies with lions on a safari. His love for his horses, Ganga and Kesari, always get a notable mention in the diary sections. The birth of his daughter filled up the celebrity pages. All this in the last couple of years or so. Parody accounts of him make a killing on Twitter. He is a cottage industry in some ways. All this with him refusing to play the PR game. When he was out of the team, his friends would tell him to ‘be in circulation, do something, say something’ but Bapu, as he is called, doesn’t do PR. His way of life is PR in itself.
One more chapter
The initials ‘RJ” are scribbled all along the compound wall of his farmhouse back home. He has whimsical night rides on his horses. Asked once, if he had pets as a child, he said, “Apne khane ka thikana nahi tha, in logon ko kahan palta? (We didn’t know where our meals were coming from, how would I have kept pets?).” It’s a dreamy story of a commoner desiring to become a cricketing prince.
He wrote one more chapter in London on Sunday. An unbeaten 86, his best Test knock that bridged the gulf between India and England and gave them hope. There is no question about his talent. But commoners who want to be kings are always doubted. Can he flight the ball? Can he bat against quality seam? Can he do this, that? Even when he became the world no. 1 One-Day International bowler, he had his critics. When he bowled India to Test wins at home on tracks when Ravichandran Ashwin wasn’t that effective, he still wasn’t trusted.
Even his faithful, however, would have wondered whether he could see through Anderson and Broad in the first hour. He showed remarkable poise to not let the match situation affect him negatively, great self-control to not let his hands go at the balls outside off as he has often done in the past, and maturity that was reflected in constant chats and fist-bumps with the younger partner.
Anderson kept pushing them across but Jadeja resisted. He did chase a couple of deliveries but even Boycott would have floundered. Such was the pressure applied by Anderson. The lengths varied, the lines remained claustrophobic but Jadeja refused to fade away without a fight. Defensively, this was as tight as he has ever been. A little forward press, arms tucked in, and lots of leaves. When Vihari and Ishant Sharma fell, he went for it. No mindless slogging but he maintained his shape, to use the cricketers lingo. There was a stunning shot off Anderson that he will loop on his phone a few times. It was the second new ball, a fullish delivery looking for swing, but he just cleared his front foot and tonked it over the straight boundary.
In full flow
When Broad slammed in a bouncer, Jadeja swivelled to hook it for a gobsmacking six. He punched, drove and cut and if not for the silly urge to retain strike through a risky single, he might have got his hundred and India some more runs.
Jasprit Bumrah had already shown that he had the gumption to fight it out there, swaying out of Broad’s bouncers and defending spinners well, but they decided to steal a single off the last ball and Bumrah couldn’t make it in time. India pressed hard with the ball but Cook wasn’t in the mood to relent. He unfurled a highlights reel of his career: stout defence, careful leaves, punches off toes, blocks on a stretched front foot, and some caressed off drives. Joe Root sensed the moment well and played out a busy little innings, constantly looking for runs. Even the wicket of Moeen Ali would have gladdened English hearts as Jadeja got it to spin sharply off the rough. Barring Cheteshwar Pujara, who used his feet, and Vihari, who deployed the sweep, the other Indians haven’t shown any positive plan against Ali. But all that’s for later. First up, they need to knock over England for as few runs as possible. Will they?
with the Express Morning Briefing