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News

Rohit: 'The confidence Jadeja has in his ability is massive'

The India captain says he told his spinners at the start of day three to "keep it tight, and let the batters make the mistake"

When day three dawned in Delhi, it felt like Australia were in the ascendancy. They had achieved first-innings parity, and had begun their second innings in rollicking fashion. They were 61 for 1 in just 12 overs, and Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne had ended the second day with a flurry of boundaries off R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
It seemed a particularly ominous start given India would have to bat fourth on a pitch that already had a lot of help for the spinners.
On the third morning, the game changed completely, as Australia lost nine wickets for just 48 runs in 19.1 overs of Ashwin and Jadeja bowling unchanged.
Jadeja had borne the brunt of Australia's early assault on the second evening, and had begun the third morning with figures of 1 for 23 in three overs. He ended it with a career-best 7 for 42.
Speaking at his post-match press conference, India captain Rohit Sharma credited Jadeja's unwavering belief in his methods for that turnaround. The belief had also stood him in good stead when he returned to action after a five-month layoff following knee surgery at the start of the series.
"Yeah, look, he has been brilliant," Rohit said. "Comebacks are not easy, but the confidence that guy has in his ability, that is massive, and you can see it out on the field. There were times when he was put under pressure but there was no sense of panic from him. He just kept relying on what he is best at, and he just kept doing that.
"Yesterday he was put under pressure, I think he went [at] more than five runs an over last evening, but he knew exactly what the Australian batters were trying to do, and he was confident in his ability that he can get those guys out, get them under pressure. The guy has played so much cricket, more than 250 [Test] wickets, so he knows. He is very confident in his ability, and I just have to trust that confidence."
While he had full faith in his spinners, Rohit reckoned that they had perhaps tried too many things at the start of Australia's innings, and said he had told them at the start of day three to stick to a simple gameplan.
"Sometimes you've got to keep it simple, not to complicate too much about what is happening," Rohit said. "Yesterday we bowled about 12 or 13 overs [12] and they were 62 [61], which is [almost] five-and-a-half [runs an over]. And I could see that we were panicking a little bit, we were trying to change fields way too many times, but in the morning we just wanted to tell those three guys, just keep it calm, we don't need to change fields as often as we did last evening.
"We keep it there, we keep it tight, and let the batters make that mistake, and I could sense that they [Australia] wanted to play that way [aggressively], and that wicket was not [one] where you could just come out and keep playing shots. You've got to find a balance and try and put them under pressure.
"That is what we wanted to try and do this morning. Just keep it tight, if they're playing some shots, so be it, we're not going to move away from what we want to do as a bowling unit, because all these guys, Axar [Patel], Jaddu and Ash, they've played a lot of cricket in these conditions, and you've got to have trust in them as well when things are not going your way.
"Those batters in the opposition group are quality batters as well, so there are bound to be partnerships, there are bound to be things that we are not expecting that will happen. It's Test cricket, they are one of the top teams in the world as well, and they've got good players, so there will be times we will be put under pressure. It's just about absorbing that pressure and keeping it there. Let the pitch do the rest, that was the talk."
"We saw most of the wickets fell in the first session, all three days, and that is something we focused on this morning. We wanted to keep it tight, we wanted to be disciplined"
The pitch certainly did the rest. On all three days of the Delhi Test, the first session has been the hardest to bat in. Three wickets fell before lunch on day one, four on day two, and ten on day three. Rohit attributed this to the springtime weather and early-morning moisture in the pitch.
"Every game you play here in this type of weather, there is a bit of moisture on the pitch, and generally, what I noticed here in these three days is, there is a lot to offer in the first session," he said at the post-match presentation. "As the game goes on, second and third session, the pitch gets slower and slower and there's not enough bite in the pitch.
"We saw most of the wickets fell in the first session, all three days, and that is something we focused on this morning. We wanted to keep it tight, we wanted to be disciplined, and I had a good chat with them. These guys are the masters of these conditions - they've played enough games, got enough wickets as well. It was just about keeping it tight, keeping it patient, let them do what they want to do, not focusing on how they wanted to bat and get panicked with that. It was important for us to stay calm and let the mistake happen."

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo