Only a day before this match, India’s coach Rahul Dravid gave a glowing endorsement of the role Ravindra Jadeja has played in the side. Jadeja had taken nine wickets at the time Dravid spoke about him. Getting more than one wicket per match is a good return but so good has the India attack been that even Dravid felt Jadeja’s contribution had gone unnoticed. Even when Jadeja’s performance was about to get noticed, against Bangladesh in Pune, a late dash from Virat Kohli to his century meant he was the Player of the Match.
A day after Dravid’s comments, Jadeja became only the fifth bowler to take a five-for in this World Cup. You can’t not notice him now. However, as Dravid said, the metrics that matter inside the team are not just wickets.
“If you look at the numbers, we look at stats, we look at data, we look at it quite a lot, he has been exceptional in this tournament,” Dravid said of Jadeja. “Because of how good our seamers have been and how fantastic it has been to watch them upfront, the performances of people like Jaddu and Kuldeep [Yadav] have probably gone slightly unnoticed.
“But I think his ability, and sometimes even having to bowl with a slightly wetter ball, because the ball has been slightly wet… Just the kind of control that he’s given us through the middle has been sensational. And just the areas he’s bowled as well, I think every metric point tells us that he’s up there with anyone in this tournament in terms of just the areas he’s been able to hit, the speeds he’s been able to bowl at.
“There’s a lot of good conversations around the group in our bowlers’ meetings with him. And just to see him in that kind of relaxed space and very clear about what he wants to do and what he wants to achieve. And just having that confidence to do that consistently over and over again has been fantastic.
“Then with the bat, again, not easy for someone like him because bats at seven, doesn’t play for three or four games, and then has to come in and again play quite an important innings every time. So that’s the tough thing for guys who bat at six and seven. When you’re batting in the top three, you know that every single game you’re going to get an opportunity to play. Sometimes at six and seven, you’re not really sure when you’re going to get a chance. Or even sometimes you won’t even get a hit like they haven’t for the first two or three games. The way we batted, he’s just come in and played critical knocks.
“And then his fielding is incredible, to have someone like him at point and taking some of the catches that he has. So really great all-around package for us, and someone who’s really had a fantastic tournament [but] a little bit maybe gone under the radar.”
No longer under the radar, Jadeja is pleased with his bowling rhythm and ability to chip in with the bat. He was asked what a luxury a player such as him would be if he was a captain.
“I would be very happy [to have myself],” Jadeja said. “And you asked me to think like a captain? I have been thinking like the captain from the first match, it’s a different matter that I haven’t become one.”
Once the laughter subsided, Jadeja said: “As an allrounder, my role is to make an impact in tough situations. When you need the crucial 30-40 runs. Or when there is a partnership going on and you need a wicket. Change the game. I always try to give an impactful performance, be there whenever the team needs me.
“And fielding I never take for granted. I still feel I can drop a catch. I am always prepared on the field. I never relax. And that’s all: I keep trying to do my best. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t, but I keep trying all the time.”
In a match where Jadeja said India were looking to challenge themselves, his performance under the lights will satisfy him even more. He said the pitch was much more difficult in the afternoon because not only did it have turn, its slow nature made shot-making extremely difficult, adding that it quickened up in the evening. “It was almost like challenging ourselves,” Jadeja said. “There could have been dew later in the night. If we get caught in such a situation in a knockout match, we should know how to handle it.”
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo