Jadeja's next test: To be at home, away

Harsha Bhogle

Top of that list was Ravindra Jadeja who, for all his skills, had his fielding and his hairstyle as his most noticeable features. But he did what all good players must do. He went back to domestic cricket and batted and bowled long hours. He became his team's lead spinner and batted at number four. And while the hopelessly one-sided tracks in Rajkot delivered him a rich bounty of runs, it also forced him to bowl long spells. As a result, Jadeja today is a significantly better bowler than in the past, maybe he has a greater understanding of what he can do (and therefore can't yet) and that is reflected in the greater accuracy he brings. Since his return in the second game against Pakistan he has 3-41 and 13, 1-19 and 27, 3-46 and 7, 2-12 and 61 not out, 3-19 and 3-39 and 21 not out. That is 129 runs (@43) and 15 wickets and you don't ask for more from an all-rounder.

His captain is enjoying this renaissance especially since batsmen were starting to get the better of his lead part-timer Yuvraj. Dhoni can now go in with five bowlers, a luxury he has rarely been allowed. And he has a fielder who is on par with Raina and Kohli. In Indian conditions, Jadeja now looks ready to be the all-rounder the team needed. But within that statement lies a celebration and a word of caution. India have always looked a reasonably well balanced team in sub-continent conditions and severely imbalanced overseas. For India to be a force at the Champions Trophy this June in England and all the way through to 2015, Jadeja must deliver similar performances in away conditions. That is the next challenge.

Heady swing ride

India's second big plus was the arrival of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. Like with so many his age, he seems possessed of abundant energy and while he swings the ball prodigiously he does so at a reasonable pace. Comparisons with Praveen Kumar are inevitable but he seems a better athlete and, critically, at least 5 kmph quicker. Dhoni has often bowled him out early and it is encouraging to see that his tenth over (even when on the trot) is not significantly lesser in intensity than his first or second. Maybe it comes out of bowling long spells for Uttar Pradesh on all kinds of wickets and ironically that is going to be his next challenge. When the ball is new and moving at his command, he seems very impressive but India would like to see him bowl in Test cricket too and that means lots of bowling on hot afternoons with an old ball.

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