Jadeja's deception in pace, length and nature
There's a stark difference between wickets taken by a spinner in the first and the second innings, especially on pitches that start reasonably flat on the first day. That's why Lyon's effort in Bengaluru could be considered as the finest bowling performance of this series so far. Similarly, Ravindra Jadeja's six and five-wicket hauls in Bengaluru and Ranchi have raised his stature and increased his credibility. There was a time when his bowling wasn't as consistent, but these two performances will go a long way to dispel that notion.
Most Indian pitches start fairly slow, and keep getting slower as the match progresses. While there'll always be footmarks to exploit and the topsoil will get loose, the lack of pace off the surface allows the batsman to adjust and survive. Therefore, it's critical to keep bowling quicker to compensate for the receding response from the pitch. But how easy is it to do that repeatedly for fairly long spells? After a day's play against New Zealand in Kanpur, R Ashwin said that even though it's imperative to bowl quicker, one can bowl only as fast as his optimum pace. If your optimum pace is 85 kmph, you can increase it by a few kmph for a spell or two. When you try to increase it by 10 kmph for a longer duration, you'd compromise on accuracy and end up bowling a lot fuller or a lot shorter. In addition, you'd also get tired too soon.
The pace in the air forms the foundation of Jadeja's success at home. His optimum pace ideal to exploit slow pitches. Jadeja bowls a flatter trajectory and therefore doesn't deceive the batsman in the air with drift or dip. His deception is off the pitch - some turn, some don't and his trajectory creates confusion with picking length. That's why he traps a lot of batsmen on the back foot to the full balls. His pace in the air makes it almost impossible for batsmen to use their feet and the same pace discourages the deployment of the sweep shot, taking away two productive scoring areas.
Along with pace, Jadeja's biggest strength is his accuracy. His pitch map will always reflect a high concentration of deliveries on one spot that forces the batsman to come on to the front foot. While going over the stumps, length becomes very important, for you must ensure that the batsman doesn't go on to the back foot. The moment he goes over the stumps, the only plausible option to work against him is to use the pads and not offer a shots. Even then, once in a while, you find it tough to negotiate. A lot of non-sub continental batsmen aren't used to playing spin out of the rough, and try to play him with the bat or make the mistake of not covering the stumps. Steven Smith's dismissal was an example of error in judgment - he didn't have a long enough stride - and not covering the stumps.
Jadeja used to have a tendency to bowl from the corner of the crease but has used the crease quite nicely recently. Previously, he played only with the angle bringing the ball in. Now, he's maintaining straighter lines and therefore, he's pitching and finishing within the stumps more often. He is also able to turn some and bring some back in without any visible change in his action or wrist position. The balls that turn land partly on the seam and the leather, while the ones that go straight land on the leather. It's not preposterous to assume that even he, like most spinners, isn't certain about the ones that will turn.
Relentlessly bowling at the same pace accurately is hugely responsible for his success but that's what goes against him occasionally. Since his plans are so sacrosanct, he doesn't deviate even when it's needed. While he's picking wickets, he isn't plotting his dismissals by varying the speed, angles and lengths.
Aakash Chopra is the author of three books, the latest of which is The Insider: Decoding the craft of cricket. @cricketaakash