IPL 2017: It’s time ‘Sir’ Jadeja starts earning his keep for the Gujarat Lions

Ashish Magotra

Ravindra Jadeja was expected to change things for the struggling Gujarat Lions. He was expected to give the bowling some bite. He was expected to give the batting greater depth. He was expected to win matches. But instead, Gujarat are seeing a player who has simply failed to rouse himself for the battle ahead.

It’s early days still but with three matches under his belt, Jadeja would now need to start delivering. Not so much because of how below par his game has been but more because of the hole, his team have managed to dig themselves into. After five matches, Gujarat sit at the bottom of the table with just two points.

And if they can’t take wickets, don’t expect things to get better for them. Gujarat’s bowlers are averaging 59 for a wicket in the tenth edition of the Indian Premier League – by Twenty20 standards, that borders on the ridiculous. This is a format where batsmen are continuously looking to play the big shots. By default, that also means more chances but Lions are so low on confidence that even the laws of probability don’t seem to apply to them anymore.

Skipper Suresh Raina was confident that getting Jadeja back into the line-up would change things. The world’s best Test bowler by ranking currently is also an IPL veteran – he knows his way around the park to say the least.

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Raina was hopeful that Jadeja’s innate confidence would rub off on the other bowlers too. But instead, Jadeja, himself, needs a pump up. In three matches, the left-arm orthodox spinner has managed to claim just one wicket. More galling perhaps is his economy rate which stands at 10.91.

In previous seasons, he has emerged as a bowler who would give control back to his team by virtue of his control. In the last two seasons, his ER has been 7.74 and 7.73 respectively. The year before that (2014), his economy with a little higher at 8.15 but he claimed 19 scalps, which was his best ever showing. Then, take it all the way back to 2009 and his economy rates have always been under eight. But this year, his head just doesn’t seem to be in the game.

His spell of 4-0-57-0 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Tuesday was his worst in T20 cricket. Gayle gave him the treatment in his second over – smacking him for 21 runs and then later in the innings, Kedar Jadhav repeated the dose by scoring 17 runs off the last over of the innings.

When Jadeja was asked about the why he was so successful against the Australia in the recent Test series, he had said: “Well, my shoulder is now on auto-mode. Everything is happening automatically.”

But now, the very same auto-pilot is working against him.

In Test cricket, you have the time to weave a net around the batsmen and consistency becomes a very big factor. In T20 cricket, with the batsmen looking to go after every ball, your greatest strengths are your variations. If you can keep changing things rapidly, not allowing the batsmen to get used to your bowling, you are in a good space. Jadeja has not been able to do that.

But if Gujarat want to have any chance of making it to the Qualifiers, they will need their star player to come to the party in a big way. If they can’t, then they might as well look forward to the big auction next year.