The 3D player theory turned into a joke in Indian cricket after Ambati Rayudu put out a legendary 3D glasses tweet after being snubbed for the 2019 ODI World Cup. The selectors had picked Vijay Shankar, who could bat a bit and bowl a bit ahead of pure batter Rayudu in the squad for the World Cup. Then, BCCI chairman of selectors, MSK Prasad, described Shankar as a three-dimensional player. The all-rounder, however, was out of the World Cup very early in the tournament due to an injury. Shankar was definitely not a 3D player, but does Team India have one in the current squad?
With his versatile skills, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja can definitely lay claim to being the team’s 3D player. His bowling prowess was on show in India’s opening World Cup 2023 clash against Australia at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Sunday, October 8. Jadeja claimed 3/28 in 10 overs, two of which were maidens; the Aussies were held to 199. The left-arm spinner dismissed Steve Smith with a beauty and added the scalps of Marnus Labuschagne and Alex Carey to firmly put Australia on the back foot. But for a special innings from KL Rahul, Jadeja would have been the Player of the Match against Australia.
India’s go-to man
There was a time when former India cricketer-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar had referred to Jadeja as a bits-and-pieces player. And while that might have been partially true at one point of time in his career, that is definitely not the case anymore. On the contrary, Jadeja has become India’s go-to man, especially in Tests and ODIs. He has broken key partnerships with the bat, which can be termed as game-changing contributions.
It happened in the match against Australia as well. Steve Smith was looking set for a big one. He had dug himself in at the crease. However, Jadeja produced a ripper to knock over the Aussie legend. The ball was pitched in the middle, turned past the bat and hit off stump. This knack for making something happen has been one of the key features of Jadeja’s bowling in recent years. Shardul Thakur may be the Lord, but Jadeja is definitely the Magician when it comes to producing brilliance out of nowhere.
And what he did to Smith was definitely not a one-off. Jadeja has produced numerous deliveries in international cricket over the years. It’s no surprise, then, that he has 275 wickets in 67 Tests and 207 in 187 ODIs. Players get to bowl only four overs in T20Is, so 51 wickets in 64 games in that format is not bad either. What you get with Jadeja is more or less of a certainty that he will somehow make things happen with the ball. He has the knack of producing that unplayable delivery. And, even if he is not taking wickets, he mostly ensures that he keeps things very tight. In the process, he often induces a false stroke out of the batters.
Jadeja 2.0: A much-improved version in Test, but questions remain in white-ball formats
While his bowling has consistently improved with experience, his batting has also gone notches higher in Test cricket in recent years. His overall career batting average in Tests is 36.41. However, since the start of 2019, he is averaging 43.75 from 27 matches, with two hundreds to his name. He has played a number of knocks, which have either helped India fight back from adversity or have aided their victory push.
The same, however, cannot be said about his batting in ODIs. In 12 one-day innings this year, he has only scored 189 runs at an average of 27 and a shockingly poor strike rate of 64.28, with a best of 45 not out. For some reason, he has not been able to break free and has got stuck at the crease. A number of his dismissals have also come at a time when the game was in the balance. Add to that, his shot selection in crunch moments has been rather disappointing. This is one area Jadeja will have to improve significantly. He has the skills for sure, but the results need to come with the willow.
3D player? Not yet, but can become one
To answer the question of whether Jadeja can be termed a 3D player, there are two dimensions of his game in which he is in supreme command. As a bowler, he has delivered the goods in Tests and has replicated the same in one-dayers since his comeback. About his fielding, nothing really needs to be said. He is exceptional as an outfielder as well as a catcher. There are few players in world cricket who are more feared than him as a fielder. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Jadeja is arguably the best fielder India has ever produced and also the finest of the current generation.
The only area where he is lacking to some extent is his batting in one-dayers, which somehow hasn’t flourished to his full potential. If we take a closer look at his ODI record as a batter, he has scored 2636 runs in 187 matches at an average of 32.14 and a strike rate of 84.43, with 13 half-centuries. There have been a number of games in which Jadeja could have become a batting hero had he taken the team home, but he hasn’t been able to do the same.
The ongoing ODI World Cup in India should provide a few opportunities for Jadeja to make his impact with the bat in hand. The 34-year-old left-handed batter needs to grab the opportunities and convert them into significant knocks. At the same time, he will be expected to keep delivering with the ball and on the field. He can perform the role that Yuvraj Singh did for India in the 2011 World Cup. If his willow game also falls into place, there is every reason to term him the 3D player of Indian cricket.