Australia in India 2017 March 10, 2017

The impact of Jadeja 2.0

From a left-arm metronome to a spinner who varies his style as per the situation, the changes that Ravindra Jadeja has brought to his bowling have been subtle but very effective

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The rise of Ravindra Jadeja

St Lucia, August 9, 2016. India made a raft of changes to their XI, and most of the debate that ensued had to do with the shuffling they did at the top of the order. Less remarked upon, but of potentially longer-term impact, was the inclusion of Ravindra Jadeja in place of Amit Mishra.

Mishra had been preferred to Jadeja as R Ashwin's spin partner in the first two Tests of India's tour of the West Indies - the team management perhaps viewing his classic legspin as more of a threat in overseas conditions than Jadeja's fast and accurate left-arm spin. Mishra began the series fairly well, but a below-par display on the final day at Sabina Park, where West Indies batted out a draw, caused India to look to Jadeja instead.

Jadeja had missed India's last 11 away Tests, and had last played one in August 2014, at Old Trafford. St Lucia was something of an audition for him.

Ravindra Jadeja's change in bowling styles has seen him rise to the top of the ICC Test rankings alongside his spin partner R Ashwin © Associated Press

As things turned out, he played an excellent support role in a Test match dominated by India's fast bowlers, finishing with figures of 24-9-27-1 and 5.3-1-20-2. His control was exemplary - so far, so Ravindra Jadeja - but unsurprising there were little moments in his spells that weren't exactly out of his tried-and-tested playbook.

Against the right-handers, for instance, he would fire a sequence of flat deliveries at the stumps, and then dangle one up a little higher and wider, inviting the drive away from the body. Two of his three wickets in the match came off that flighted tempter - Roston Chase caught at slip in the first innings, Jermaine Blackwood stumped in the second.

This was an unusual tactic for Jadeja, and at that point felt like a one-off experiment - this West Indies team, after all, was full of batsmen with hard hands, prone to pushing at the ball away from the body. Jadeja, though, has continued to bowl this way even in home conditions. His fundamentals remain unchanged, but he has expanded the canvas of his bowling to include subtle variations in pace and angle.

Right-hand batsmen against Jadeja - shot direction
Series leg side off side total LS% OS%
 Eng home 2012-13  162  235  397  40.80  59.19
 Aus home 2013-14  278  396  674  41.24  58.75
 SA away 2013-14  104  178  282  36.87  63.12
 NZ away 2013-14  215  224  439  48.97  51.02
 Eng away 2014  167  229  396  42.17  57.82
 SA home 2015-16  232  355  587  39.52  60.47
 WI away 2016  40  82  122  32.78  67.21
 NZ home 2016-17  181  361  542  33.39  66.60
 Eng home 2016-17  334  664  998  33.46  66.53
 Ban home 2016-17  100  212  312  32.05  67.94
 Aus home 2016-17  83  171  254  32.67  67.32

There is one set of numbers that bears out this change. ESPNcricinfo's scorers record a wide range of data for every ball played, including which part of the ground the ball went towards. In every series Jadeja played until the end of 2015 (leaving out balls recorded as going into a "not specified" zone - usually balls left alone or dead-batted or played straight back towards the bowler), right-hand batsmen invariably ended up with a roughly 60-40 split between shots going into the off side and shots going into the leg side. This was in keeping with Jadeja being someone who attacked the stumps and turned the ball away from the right-hander, though not to a great degree.

Since the start of 2016, however, right-hand batsmen have been playing Jadeja differently. Now the split is closer to 67-33, a significant drop in the ratio of balls played into the leg side. It's more in line with how they would play a classic left-arm spinner.

Ravindra Jadeja - dismissal summary
bowled % lbw % c keeper % c fielder % stumped % total
 up to Dec 31, 2015  22  32.35  10  14.70  6  8.82  27  39.70  3  4.41  68
 since Jan 1, 2016  4  6.55  18  29.50  7  11.47  28  45.90  4  6.55  61

Jadeja's wicket-taking methods have changed too. He's getting far fewer batsmen out bowled, a greater percentage out lbw, and more batsmen out caught. Analysing his dismissals of right-hand batsmen, in particular, reveals the extent of his evolution.

Until the end of 2015, he dismissed 49 right-hand batsmen, of whom 25 (51.02%) were bowled or lbw and 11 (22.45%) caught by the keeper, slip or gully. Since the start of 2016, he has dismissed 36 right-hand batsmen, of whom 16 (44.44%) have been out bowled or lbw, and 11 (30.56%) caught by the keeper, slip or gully.

Where he had five right-hand batsmen (10.2%) caught at short leg, midwicket or mid-on in the first half of his career, he has only had two (5.55%) caught at these positions in the second half. Where he didn't get a single right-hand batsman caught at silly point, cover or mid-off until the end of 2015, he has dismissed four of them in these positions since.

The change in bowling style hasn't dulled his effectiveness in any way. He took 68 wickets at an average of 23.76 and a strike rate of 62.70 in the first half of his career. In the second half he has taken 61 wickets at 23.09 and 61.0. His economy rate, across avatars, has remained exactly the same: 2.27.

Perhaps Jadeja's inability to run through Australia in Pune - where conditions were tailor-made for his 2012-2015 version - was down to his becoming a more classic left-arm spinner. He found it difficult to operate away from a traditional good length, and often ended up turning the ball far too much and, as a consequence, missing the outside edge.

India coach Anil Kumble has probably had an influence on Jadeja's bowling style © AFP

At the same time, though, Jadeja now looks more threatening on flat pitches than he used to, his changes of pace and trajectory keeping batsmen vigilant at all times where his earlier, metronomic style could occasionally bowl them into a rhythm.

Now, if he sees a batsman negotiating him largely off the back foot, he'll aim a round-arm dart at his pads. Or if a batsman is defending him off the front foot with his pad next to the line of the ball, wary of the threat of lbw, he'll toss one up slower and wider. Sometimes, this may bring immediate results - think Jonny Bairstow scooping a catch to short cover in the first innings in Chennai. At other times, a batsman may simply slice the ball to backward point, off the outside half of his bat, then start bringing his front leg further across in defence, leading to an lbw further down the line.

The changes in Jadeja's bowling have been subtle and can be easy to miss. He has kept quiet about them - or hasn't been asked about them - unlike Ashwin, who talks often, and in depth, about his bowling. Perhaps Jadeja is happy to pass under the radar and let the world continue to think of him as an uncomplicated stump-to-stump metronome. That won't last too long though, given he now sits right next to Ashwin on top of the ICC's Test bowling rankings.

One question remains: what triggered the shift in Jadeja's bowling? What changed between his 16th Test against South Africa in Delhi and his 17th in St Lucia eight months later? One thing did change: India hired a new coach, and that man, Anil Kumble, had a career of two distinct halves. In the first half, he was a fast, non-turning legspinner who speared the ball into the stumps and let the pitch do the rest. In the second, he began flighting the ball more, varied his pace more frequently, and tasted far more success overseas. Jadeja could well be taking the first few steps of a similar journey.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • cricfan03307683 on March 21, 2017, 13:54 GMT

    India has the most number of haters tbh .....Let us still have the underdog tag while travelling overseas ...2011-12 was a disaster season after we had won the world cup as many greats were on the decline in indian cricket.....2013-14 was a mediocre or below par overseas season as almost new players had visited Aus/eng/SA/NZ . The thing is weve got better in playing quick bowlers and cant play on rank turners like pune and nagpur 2015 ....thats fine ....but now we have to persisit with this combo who have considerable experience and have the potiential to do well...i have. a feeling this is 2017-18 overseas gonna be better but still i am happy that ppl are critcizing india is upto our team to prove them wrong . I believe in you.

  • Gaurav Sethi on March 21, 2017, 13:46 GMT

    Most wickets overseas are taken by quik bowlers. Jadeja does a good job by keeping it quite even there

  • gagan on March 12, 2017, 19:26 GMT

    @crtics : Jadeja was bowler of tournament in CT 2013 where he was also man of match in final..

  • Heramb on March 12, 2017, 17:49 GMT

    Could not have put it better ONLYCRICKETGEEK as a fitting riposte to critics like BIG_AL_81.McGrath & Marshall succeeded all over the world including the SC,while Warne despite his 708 Test wickets was a big flop in India in particular and the SC in general despite pitches perfectly suited to his style of bowling.That does not undermine his achievement of 1000 international wickets but exposes him as somebody who succeeded more against teams that are known to traditionally struggle against spin bowling such as England & SA. Steyn won Tests for SA all around the world including India & SL,while Johnson despite 300 Test wickets struggled in the SC,while Starc & Hazlewood are yet to win a Test for Australia in the SC despite Starc's 24 wickets in the Test series in SL in 2016.Not denying that Hazlewood is one of the most exciting fast bowling prospects with all the potential to end up as one of the best in world cricket over the next decade.Rankings are not always incorrect mate.

  • Kumar on March 12, 2017, 17:07 GMT

    @BIG_AL_81 YOUR premier fast bowler Mitchel Johnson averaged 40 in subcontinent , u wouldn't have any issue if he ever had been no1 in test cricket.Then why so fuss over Jadeja being no 1 .

  • sam on March 12, 2017, 14:01 GMT

    @Big_Al_81 You see changes in Jadeja has happened in the last 6 months epsecially in the last 3 months. In last 3-4 months he has not played a single test match away from home. He is flighting 2-3 balls every over (his new approach) apart from darting 2-3 balls every over (previously he used to dart everything). In the balls he is flighting sometimes he is getting dip and/or drift. He has become an excellent bowler in the last 3-4 months. That doesn't mean he is going to take a 5-for on a green top. No, no way. But he will be more effective than before. However, if you have biased opinion you won't agree with it. It is fine. Anyway, Jadeja is probably going to play in SL and may be a few games in SA as well (unless all 4 tests are green tops and India decide to play only 1 spinner in Ashwin). Looking forward to those games.

  • Alistair on March 12, 2017, 8:18 GMT

    Oh, I realise that some of you have a desperate need for some figures - here are a few: Jadeja - average in India - 19!!! Average elsewhere in the world 41.8. The good news for him is he hardly ever goes anywhere else in the world - 20 matches at home and 8 away (and that 41.8 is massaged by averaging 15.7 against the Windies). Compare this with Josh Hazlewood (and I'm no fan of the Aussies) - he's played the same number of matches as Jadeja but (like SA, England, Pakistan, NZ, SL) Australia quite often do serious and challenging foreign tours. This fella averages 25 at home and 23 away. 'Rest of the World', let me ask you, 'is there anybody who thinks Ravi Jadeja is a better bowler than Josh Hazlewood?'........Oh, was that a hand up? No, it's just a guy who thought I asked whether Jadeja looks cooler in shades than Josh Hazlewood....Face it folks - the rankings do lie. And hype rules. OK, I really am off now. Have fun

  • Alistair on March 12, 2017, 7:54 GMT

    Good luck proving to ANYONE outside India that Jadeja should be in the top 20 bowlers in the world, let alone the best. I applaud the ingenuity of the author trying to find a way to persuade us that there is a Jadeja 2.0. Figures against the West Indies mean virtually nothing. We've just gone there and whitewashed them in the ODIs without having to play especially well and their own most dangerous bowlers are spinners these days anyway! No - this is just about the 'WorldSeries-isation' of cricket. We all go to India - they beat us, feel marvellous about having the best team in the world, the best bowlers in the world, the best batsmen in the world and everyone else knows they're just the same old India who turn up for any serious foreign assignment with one or two outstanding batsmen and a desperately limited bowling attack. But at the moment, they can avoid that by not playing in any serious foreign assignments at all. Phew, got that off my chest...don't worry I won't be returning ;-)

  • ssarat6156488 on March 12, 2017, 7:08 GMT

    criticsing abhinav mukund is not good.u people give rohit sharma tons and tons of chanse in test hoping he may come good.there r lakhs of cricketers waiting unless u give a fair chance how u say he is not good.he had pressure,because he is playing after so many years.he has been selected because of domestic performances.if sekhar dhawan got these many chanses then abhinav deserves half chanses.if again he is failing then raise ur slogan against him.

  • haggan8313976 on March 12, 2017, 6:00 GMT

    @patelbahi Chennai Batsman Murli Vijay out .. therefore another Chennai batsman Abhinav Mukund replaced him. In Indian cricket it is all about quota. Ideally speaking Parthiv Patel or Rishab Pant should have played as an opener but then its just me. Indian cricket does not work this way.

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