People have been building up the similarities between Smith and Virat Kohli, but it's Jadeja that Smith shares a stronger connection with. Smith was once upon a time supposed to be the next Shane Warne when he made his Test debut as a legspinner against Pakistan and batted at No. 8. Jadeja had scored three triple-centuries in first-class cricket. India had tried to make him bat high in limited-overs cricket. Both Smith and Jadeja had tried the wrong discipline in international cricket, and had been ridiculed for it. In fact Jadeja's recent Test debut had come on the back those triple-centuries. There were even memes when he struggled with the bat against England.
In the 2012-13 series between India and Australia, though, the teams finally realised Smith was primarily a batsman and Jadeja a bowler. Four years later, Smith averages 60 with the bat, and Jadeja is only marginally behind the world's No. 1 bowler, R Ashwin, on the ICC rankings. Their transformation has made for two of the loveliest stories in cricket over the last four years.
Jadeja will now have Smith in his sights, for four years ago he helped start a pattern. Smith's comeback began in in the third Test of the series as a No. 5 batsman. He scored an impressive 92 before Pragyan Ojha ripped one past his bat to have him stumped. In the next Test, on a rank turner in Delhi, Smith padded up to Jadeja, only to watch the ball go straight on to peg back his stumps. When you get beaten on either edge in such a short period, doubt is bound to creep in.
In seven Tests in Asia, Smith has fallen to spin 13 times. Eight of those wickets have been to left-arm spin. On three of those occasions he has been stumped, but on the other five he been either lbw or bowled. That is the dismissal that plays with your mind. Add another one to that list when Yasir Shah got him lbw with a legbreak that didn't turn. The balls that don't turn, or the unpredictable amount of turn on the ball after it pitches, gives batsmen little time to adjust off the pitch. That is the biggest challenge for batsmen coming to Asia.
"I think that's one of the big challenges of playing spin bowling in Asia is the uncertainty of what the ball's sort of going to do off the pitch," Smith said. "Playing spin in Australia, the bounce and the spin is generally pretty consistent. It's here where there is uncertainties that we can become unstuck as a batter."
The plan obviously has been to make sure you don't get beaten by the straighter ball. If the ball turns as expected and takes the outside edge, so be it, but the one that doesn't turn shouldn't beat your inside edge. "For us it's ensuring we have a plan to play against the spin of [R] Ashwin, Jadeja and the other spinner that they are going to choose tomorrow," Smith said. "It's making sure that you have a plan in place for getting out a certain way almost. You have to be willing to give something up and take out one side of the bat. That's my view of playing spin bowling. Everyone's different but the guys have worked hard to develop plans."
Taking out the lbw or bowled is not that simple, though. For once you start playing inside the line, you expose your outside edge and also at times the off stump to ones that might turn sharply. You have to be prepared to cop that and hope you get enough runs before that happens.
Smith went on to confirm that "most of the times" you can't pick the straighter one out of the hand, unlike a legspinner's googly. If Jadeja is listening, he must be smiling. He has been the No. 2 to Ashwin, both in the ICC rankings and in the Test team, but he has made it a bit of a habit to go after the captain or the No. 1 batsman of the opposition. In the last series against Australia, he dismissed captain Michael Clarke five times out of the six he got out. Against England this season, he took out Alastair Cook six times. When South Africa came to India in 2015-16, he planted several doubts in the heads of two of their batsmen, captain Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis, flattening their stumps as they padded up.
It's the captain again. Smith has had his problems with left-arm spin. If there is any doubt, Jadeja exposes it ruthlessly with his accuracy and his relentlessness. These are two careers that are at their peak after they began to mend almost simultaneously. Over the coming month or so, one of them could hit a temporary bump.