Matches (16)
IPL (1)
WI vs SA (2)
ENG v PAK (W) (1)
USA vs BAN (1)
ENG v PAK (1)
County DIV1 (5)
County DIV2 (4)
CE Cup (1)
Feature

The new and unrecognisable Ravindra Jadeja

He used to play fun little innings. Now he's capable of defining a whole match, with bat or ball

He starts meticulously, biding time, seeing out the tough ones, getting his eyes acclimatised, his feet moving, his hands going where they should. He defends, he leaves, he pokes unambitiously to cover. He gets forward to the full ones, commits late to the shot, under the eyes, pitch of the ball, soft hands, full face of the bat… you know… all that stuff.
And maybe because he can do all that now, there is on his best days, an effortless transition to the old him. The guy who comes down the track to bang bowlers over their heads. The guy that slashes at balls that should be too close, but he gets them away.
On day two in Mohali, Ravindra Jadeja was a monster.
He's been so good with the bat for so long, the old vision of him seems positively ancient now, but let us transport ourselves back. There was a fidgetiness, once. Fresh at the crease, he'd occasionally look like someone doing an impression of a batter. He'd hit those famous Ranji Trophy triple-hundreds on his way into the team so somewhere you knew that there had to be some heft to the guy. But it was the desperation to get those early boundaries away that betrayed him. In his first 30 innings, he'd hit two half centuries, both at rapid pace, the most memorable of course being the game-changing 68 off 57 at Lord's.
Elsewhere, there'd be innings like his 26 off 21 when India were battling to win a match in Auckland. A 25 off 24 in Nottingham, when MS Dhoni was still there with him. A 26 off 24 in Wellington, an 8 off 4 in Durban - you get the picture. Fun, but insubstantial.
The thing about his transformation, though, is that this modern, monster Jadeja, is in this sense, unrecognisable. In this innings he not only put in the hard work of getting himself in, making 14 and venturing only one four off his first 40 deliveries, he was also the hermit in the 104-run partnership with Rishabh Pant, in which he made 35 off 67, and Pant reaped 68 off 51.
Batting with the tail, which used to include him, Jadeja was a No. 7 batting like a No. 4. Singles early in the over? Yah, no thanks. Of the 94 balls he and No. 10 Mohammad Shami faced, Jadeja saw 60, and hit 71. The old Jadeja emerging after the new one had seen him well past a century. Following this 175 not out, he now has a Test batting average of 36.46, which is the highest its ever been. His improvement has been both linear, and basically relentless.
On the bowling front, we can be less surprised. He was the last of the bowlers to be introduced on day two, but within two balls, he got the wicket of Sri Lanka's key batter Dimuth Karunaratne, who wasn't expecting anywhere near that kind of side spin, as no one else had produced it. Jadeja was getting balls to keep low when no one else was getting them to keep low. He was getting balls to leap when no one else was getting them to leap. But this Jadeja, the fast-spinning, wicket-to-wicket, always-at-you type… this Jadeja we have known. If he'd still taken his 1 for 30, but got out for 40 off 45 earlier in the day, this Jadeja feels familiar.
Can you imagine how unfair all this must feel like for a visiting side, particularly one of the limited gifts of Sri Lanka? You've got through the first five wickets quickly, but the opposition's No. 7 is not like your No. 7 (Niroshan Dickwella), who as much fun as he is, you might not trust to stick around long enough to count to 175, let alone score it. Let's not even start on how good R Ashwin is at No. 8. I mean, if you are playing as a bowler, then just be good at bowling, no? Why must you visit this multidimensional torment?
But Jadeja is one of the players on the forefront of India's Test advancement. With the bat, if Rohit Sharma doesn't get you, then there is Virat Kohli, or Pant, or one of the new guys, or Jadeja, and don't screw around with No. 8 Aswhin. With the ball, Jasprit Bumrah then Mohammed Shami, then Jadeja and Ashwin, and look, there is no relent.
The one thing that you can say for Jadeja, is that of all the names above him, no one makes cricket look as effortless. This is a weird thing to say about someone whose main job in the team has been to bowl left-arm orthodox.
But things change. Jadeja for the better. And you become the kind of player who can shut an opposition down, with either bat or ball in the space of a day.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf