What makes Ravindra Jadeja India's most valuable Test cricketer of the 21st century

Rahul Motipalle

Ravindra Jadeja's incredible fielding excellence on display.

There is no doubt that Ravindra Jadeja is one of the most complete all-rounders in international cricket. Though most people may identify bowling to be his primary skill, Ravindra Jadeja has put up many good performances with the bat to be considered a genuine all-rounder. The icing on the cake is his gun fielding. Ravindra Jadeja is arguably one of the best fielders in the world today, if not the best.

The pertinent question that is on everyone's mind is how Ravindra Jadeja, someone who is occasionally not even a first pick in India's Test XI, especially during overseas tours, more valuable than Indian Test greats like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, or Virat Kohli?

Well, the answer to that question is that Ravindra Jadeja epitomises the cricketer who gives his everything on the field in the limited chances that he gets. One can see the humongous impact that Ravindra Jadeja has had on a game even when he is on the field as a substitute fielder.

Ravindra Jadeja saved more runs than anyone else in the 2019 Cricket World Cup despite playing only two full matches and appearing in the others only as a substitute fielder.

Jadeja saved the most number of runs in CWC 2019 despite playing most matches as a substitute fielder

Ravindra Jadeja's record as an all-rounder in Tests

Ravindra Jadeja starred with the bat in the home series against South Africa and Bangladesh in 2019.

Ravindra Jadeja, just like his spin-twin Ravichandran Ashwin, has already achieved the double of 1500 runs and 200 wickets in just 49 Test matches that he has played.

In the first Test against South Africa in October 2019, he became the second-fastest Indian behind Ashwin to take 200 wickets in Tests, achieving the feat in only 44 tests. He has been a frontline bowler in all of the Tests he has featured in.

Indian Test skipper Virat Kohli's new-found confidence in Ravindra Jadeja's batting skills in Tests has meant that the left-hander has batted up as high as number six. Even while batting, Ravindra Jadeja has fulfilled a number of roles: he has played the role of an accelerator at number six so that India could declare their innings early, while he has also played the role of the gritty customer who grinds at the crease with equal ease.

In 2019, through some exhilarating performances with both bat and ball, Ravindra Jadeja proved why he should be an automatic pick in the Indian Test XI in any part of the world.

Having warmed the bench during most of India's tours to South Africa, England and South Africa in 2018, Ravindra Jadeja finally got to play a full Test series when India toured West Indies in 2019 where he impressed everyone with his batting prowess. He continued that form in the home series against South Africa and Bangladesh.

While Ravindra Jadeja has continued to be a potent red-ball bowler for India, his class with the bat is on a steep upward curve. Since the start of 2018, he has lifted his batting average from 29.40 to 35.26 in the span of just 19 innings, batting between numbers 4 and 9, according to ESPNCricinfo.

Out of those 19 innings, he has batted between number six and nine on 18 occasions. These figures easily make him the most dependable lower-order batsman in the Indian Test team since 2018. In the home series against Bangladesh, Ravindra Jadeja scored three consecutive fifties, and all of them came while batting at number six. His recent batting prowess has allowed Kohli to field five frontline bowlers in Tests.

From a statistical point of view, the impact of an all-rounder can be measured by taking the batting and bowling average differential, i.e., by subtracting the bowling average from the batting average of the all-rounder.

Jadeja's batting and bowling average differential of 10.62 runs is the second best of any player this century to have scored more than 1,000 runs and taken 150 wickets in Tests. In contrast, Shakib Al Hasan has a batting and bowling average differential of 8.29 while the figures for Ben Stokes and Ravichandran Ashwin are 3.85 and 2.68 respectively.

Ravindra Jadeja's catch of Neil Wagner in the 2nd Test of the IND vs NZ series in 2019-20

In the India vs New Zealand Test series earlier this year, nothing went India's way. The series was a highly disappointing affair, to say the least, where even the likes of Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah struggled to score runs and pick wickets respectively.

At some stage in both the Tests, India were even struggling to clean up New Zealand's tail. In the second Test, when Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner were putting India through a lot of embarassment by stretching a sizeable ninth-wicket partnership, it was Jadeja who put en end to India's gloom by picking taking the 'Catch of the Decade' to dismiss Neil Wagner.

Jadeja, fielding at square leg, was not standing at the edge of the boundary and had to move back as the ball was flying over his head, but he jumped in the air and plucked the ball out of thin air with his left hand.

That is exactly what Ravindra Jadeja can do. You can never put him out of the game. It is fitting that a three-dimensional player like him was named India's 'Most Valuable Player' of the 21st century.

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