Third triple puts Jadeja in elite company
Ravindra Jadeja is the eighth batsman and first Indian to score three triple-centuries in first-class cricket. He joined the illustrious company of WG Grace, Bill Ponsford, Don Bradman, Wally Hammond, Graeme Hick, Brian Lara and Michael Hussey. Jadeja is not yet 24.
He reached his third triple on the second day of Saurashtra's Ranji Trophy match against Railways in Rajkot. He was unbeaten on 320 at stumps, having batted 690 minutes in the first innings. Jadeja had begun this Ranji season in a blaze of glory, making an unbeaten 303, which spanned 561 minutes, against Gujarat in Surat. His first triple-hundred had come in November 2011, 314 in 558 minutes against Orissa in Cuttack.
The third triple was laudable for its timing. Saurashtra, without Cheteshwar Pujara, had slipped to 90 for 4 after Jaydev Shah had decided to bat against Railways. Jadeja would have also been dismissed, on 19, had medium-pacer Krishnakant Upadhyay not floored a straightforward catch off his own bowling.
Jadeja made the most of that reprieve. He found a partner in Shitanshu Kotak to first stabilise the innings and then give it respectability. Jadeja and Kotak complemented each other: the two left-hand batsmen, one full of exuberance and the other experience, ensured Railways did not have any further success on the first day. Saurashtra were 227 for 4 at stumps. Jadeja was on 111, Kotak 53.
"As usual the wicket was playing very easy. But to stay at there and score runs, you had to show a lot of application and determination," Kotak said. "After all, the Railways new-ball bowlers and spinners were really bowling well and keeping a good line and length. Jadeja handled them excellently and played a lovely innings.
Having shown a tremendous appetite for runs this season, Jadeja batted on through the second day, converting his century into a double and then an unbeaten triple. Jadeja had another let-off, on 274, when he edged left-arm spinner Ashish Yadav but Sanjay Bangar could not catch a difficult chance at slip.
"He has started showing so much maturity and this particular innings was the best example," said Kotak, who was dismissed on 68 after adding 170 runs for the fifth wicket with Jadeja. "I was there at the other end for a very long time and I can tell you he batted with great responsibility. Never once did he appear careless or irresponsible. He was determined to play a big innings."
Kotak said Jadeja's form would make the selectors take notice when they pick the limited-overs squads for the Twenty20 and ODI series against England in December and January. "You can't ignore such performances. Jadeja is very young. He has not only batted well and scored lots of runs this season, but also taken plenty of wickets as a left-arm spinner. So the selectors should seriously consider him as an allrounder and give him another chance to prove his worth."
Debu Mitra, who has been Saurashtra's coach for more than ten years, rated this triple-century higher than Jadeja's previous two. "I've seen all the three triple-centuries scored by Jadeja. Though this one was played on a slightly batting-friendly pitch, it was easily the best because it was made when the bowlers were on top and Saurashtra were in trouble.
"It was a fantastic innings. This is Group A, with some of the best teams. And Railways are no pushovers. I think almost right through the first day the Railways bowlers dominated the proceedings. You can see that from Saurashtra's score, too - 227 for 4 in 90 overs. But Sunday belonged to Jadeja."
Haresh Pandya is a freelance journalist specialising in cricket. He writes for The New York Times among other publications