Oh, Ravi Jadeja: India's warrior king
He wears gloves with fluorescent lines to Lord's. He could play in a singlet and denim shorts at Wimbledon. He looks like a bundle of nerves at the crease. The bat taps down three times, the leading sleeve is rolled up like Kevin Pietersen's, he shrugs his leading shoulder as the bowler starts to run in, then he squats in his stance, the top half of the body almost leaning out of the rest of the frame, the back lift high as if he were a Lara. You can smell fidgetiness.
Within the first 10-15 minutes at the wicket, he has played awkwardly in front of his body, he has charged at quick bowlers, he has looked hopeless playing straight balls across the line, he has called for ridiculous singles, he has charged down against spin and played a worse shot than his predecessor did and perished doing, he looks like he does not belong yet when you look at the scoreboard he is 23 off 20.
These are not any 23 off 20. These are 23 off 20 in a tense Test on a pitch that has done a bit throughout the Test. These are 23 off 20 from a time when India are effectively 179 for 6, in the middle of what looks like a collapse, and with new ball around the corner.
You can see why he is so annoying to the opposition. A man who clearly has no business batting at Test level, but the ticker he has in abundance. Shane Warne on commentary talks about how he loves adversity. The Indian fans in the crowd go with a chant that has become a bit of a cult: "Ooooo Raavi Jadeja, ooooo Raavi Jadeja." A chant so catchy, the man himself has amended his Twitter handle to reflect it.
Get out of the way, Ravindrasinh Anirudhsinh Jadeja is taking over Lord's.
England, in response, are going helter skelter. They do not like disorder; you cannot get on a bus here without an Oyster card and simply pay in cash. Jadeja with the bat in hand is anything but order. He is India's Jaad In The Box. This is incredibly high-risk strategy. He can easily nick off, get hurt, run out, get caught at mid-on, or even trip over so awkwardly in his charging at the fast bowlers.
This strategy is not for everyone, but for Jadeja it is life as usual. Back home, at his farmhouse in Jamnagar, he resides with his Doberman Rocky and four horses. He rides them without a saddle, forget knee caps or a helmet. Flashy cars, look-at-me sunglasses, RJ or Ravi inscribed on most of his belongings, he is a bit of a king, a warrior king, befitting the name Jadeja. He does not like the pedigree Arabian horses you get in England. He does not like James Anderson either. Anderson does not like him. They could both be banned for the next Test.
So when Anderson comes out to bat on day three, the Raavi Jadeja chant goes up in the stands. MS Dhoni yields to the demands and brings Jadeja on. Anderson reverse-sweeps first ball, a shot that has brought him runs at Trent Bridge. This pitch is different, though. The ball bounces a little extra, and Anderson is caught at first slip.
A day later, the new ball is taken, Jadeja is batting like Jadeja does, and England call upon Anderson, who removes the amazingly disciplined M Vijay just short of a century. There has been no effect on Jadeja, though. The second ball he faces from Anderson he dances down and swings, gets a big inside edge that goes in the air, and just out of the reach of square leg. Anderson responds with a short ball, but this time Jadeja is in the crease and defends.
In the next over, bowled by Stuart Broad, Jadeja moves a touch across, plays across the line, is nearly lbw and nearly caught off the leading edge to the same ball, but that still does not pull him back. He gets a shortish ball, into the hips, around middle and leg, but because he is moving across, he can tuck it fine for four.
If they bowl short, he pulls in front of square, with no pretence of elegance and so hard as if the ball is an object to be hated. In the next over he charges at Anderson again, without warning or rhyme nor, and somehow - not off the middle of the bat - drives him through cover for four. Two balls later an inside edge saves him from being plumb lbw.
Anderson is in his ear, he is mock-clapping Jadeja from mid-off as Broad runs in to bowl from the Nursery End. He then lofts Broad back over his head, his first correct and elegant shot. And follows it with a pull. The pièce de résistance comes when he punches Anderson off the back foot, through point, for a get-out-of-my-face four. He is already 40 off 29. The lead is now 236. India already have a fighting total, and England are demoralised.
The field has spread, singles are available, and Jadeja strolls his way to his Test best and his first fifty. Upon reaching there he gets into a sword dance, his bat brandishing like a naked sword. He is the king, the warrior king, Lord's his subjects, watching in awe, standing up to applaud. Those who laughed at him once laugh with him now.
Jadeja has not always been the king. He is as working class as it gets when he bowls. Bowling ball after ball on the same spot hoping for some natural variation with no pretence of being the spinner today's Jim Laker would conjure when dreaming of paradise. If MS Dhoni asks him to switch to round the wicket, he switches round; if the captain wants over, he goes over. In the field he chases after every ball in a manner you would not associate with royalty. In the nets he painstakingly bats for longer than any other batsman. One extra throwdown, one extra hit, anything to do to become valuable to the team.
If the batsman represents the flashy royalty he has now become, Jadeja the bowler and the fielder are the real Jadeja. He was not always this rich. He used to go to cricket, away from home, with only Rs 10 in his pocket. Forget exotic pets and feeding them and providing a playground, the young Jadeja did not know where his next meal would come from.
Jadeja gets out for 68, his job as royalty is done. Twenty minutes later, the working-class hero is back on the field. As early as the seventh over of the innings, his captain calls upon him. The first ball slides in, hits Sam Robson on the pad, and appeals. The bat is awfully close to the pad, the batsman seems to have been hit outside the line of off, but Kumar Dharmasena raises his finger after long internal deliberation. Replays show the ball has hit the pad fractionally before hitting the bat, Hawk Eye says a smidgeon of the ball is inside the line when it makes contact with pad, and that Dharmasena is right.
This is Jadeja's day. Just give in. Resistance is futile. Go into the stands, or out in the streets, and sing, "Ooooo Raavi Jadeja."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo