As India dominates Australia, southpaw breaks the Indian legend record with an incredible fifer and a half century
Filling the big boots of Kapil Dev has been an Achilles’ heel for Indian cricket. It’s been 29 years since the legendary Indian cricketer and all-rounder called the curtains on his illustrious career, however, India’s search continues.
While a pace bowling all-rounder remained a dream, with a fit-again Hardik Pandya being the next in line, it was the ‘flying-under-the-radar’ Ravindra Jadeja who, on many occasions, showed he could be counted on too.
While the southpaw from Gujarat’s Jamnagar, a quaint town known for its rich cricketing legacy, himself scoffed at the idea in the past, the fact is that his incredible performance in the first Test of the Border Gavaskar Trophy 2023 once again put the spotlight back on him – whether he likes it or not.
Making a comeback after a knee operation, Jadeja showed little sign of a cricketer who was out of action for almost five months as he floored the mighty Australians with his five-wicket haul on the opening day of the match on February 9 in Jamtha, Nagpur.
Jadeja then rubbed salt in Australian wounds with an unbeaten 66 on the second day of the match on February 10 as India reached 321 for seven at stumps – a lead of 144 runs.
It was the fifth time in Test cricket that Jadeja had picked up five wickets and scored fifty in the same match. In the process, he eclipsed Kapil Dev’s record of picking a fifer and scoring a half ton in the same match four times.
It was a sort of poetic justice for Jadeja, who was put under scanner as the broadcaster’s camera saw him applying some sort of white substance to the index finger of his bowling arm.
While the Indian team had clarified that Jadeja was applying pain-relief cream, and nowhere he was seen applying anything on the ball, Twitterati seized the moment with conspiracy theories.
But 13 years since another ‘moment’, Jadeja has emerged as one tough nut with an ability to shut the noise around him and let his game speak.
On February 10, Jadeja let the game do the talking as he made most of the opportunity that came his way – Steve Smith let his ‘slip’ on 22, while he survived a close lbw appeal on 33.
While Jadeja went on to complete his 18th Test fifty, he was instrumental in steadying the Indian ship, with debutant Todd Murphy lording over more illustrious names for a five-wicket haul.
At a time when skipper Rohit Sharma, who had scored his maiden ton as Test skipper and his 10th overall, looked disappointed, with his team losing quick wickets, Jadeja provided the stability.
The duo added 61 runs for the sixth wicket as India overcame Australia’s first innings total of 177 – and added a 52-run lead.
By the time, Sharma departed – after a well-made 120 (212b, 15×4, 2×6) and to a tired looking footwork, or lack of it, after a six hour stay – he had set the template for how to bat on a wicket that is not as difficult as it was made out but still has something for the bowlers.
Jadeja, however, found an able ally in fellow Gujarati, and another left-handed spin all-rounder, Axar Patel, as the duo added 81 runs for the unbroken eighth wicket that helped India swell their lead.
Jadeja and Patel, who is anointed to take over from Jadeja someday, were at their circumspect best as they rightly decided to spend time on the wicket to know it better.
But as the day neared its end, they paced their innings, making full use of an Australian attack that looked tired under the sun. Patel, who had a knack for scoring big runs during his age group cricket, took the chance with some eye-catching drives as he completed his second half ton in the longer format of the game.
Surely, Australia will take pride in Murphy’s performance – whose five wickets include Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, along with Suryakumar Yadav – they will also hope to apply themselves – like the hosts – when they come to bat in the second innings.
BRIEF SCORE: Australia 177 trail India 321/7 (Rohit Sharma 120, Ravindra Jadeja 66*, Axar Patel 52*; Todd Murphy 5/82) by 144 runs