Fast-tracked Jadeja quick off the blocks
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By Thursday morning, Ajinkya Rahane had spent a little over 400 days in India's Test squad, without having received his Test number. The Mumbai batsman first met the bench he was so cosily going to warm back in November 2011, when Darren Sammy's West Indies were due on these shores for a three-match Test series.
Ravindra Jadeja, on the other hand, had to spend just 24 hours on Rahane's bench before becoming India's 275th Test player. Sachin Tendulkar gave him the cap with the number printed on it.
Until last week, the idea of playing Test cricket in the near future was so far fetched that it never crossed his mind. When the selectors showed Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh the door, the Saurashtra boy was playing a Ranji Trophy game at Rajkot. On hearing from his team-mates that he was expected to show up for duty in Nagpur, he laughed at them. "Maine socha taang kheech rahe hai (I thought they were pulling my leg)," he said.
On Tuesday, he was still playing the Ranji game against Bengal. On Wednesday, he met his new colleagues in Nagpur for the first time. On Thursday, he was in India's whites, bowling as many overs as the primary off and leg spinners in the side put together. He conceded just two runs more than, and took as many wickets as, the best Indian bowler of the day. In Hindi, he said at the presser post stumps: "I wouldn't have ever dreamt of it." Neither did many others.
At first, the decision to play Jadeja may have come as a shock to all but the Indian think tank. But skipper MS Dhoni has always tended to trust horses-for-courses over reputation. So as one left-arm-spinner-cum-batsman replaced another at number six, Piyush Chawla, the leggie who had played his second and seemingly final Test back in Kanpur 2008 (incidentally, Dhoni's first Test as captain), made his comeback on a slow and low track in place of the second seamer.