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Cricket news - Jadeja's versatility debunking doubts, edging out contenders

Putting Jadeja at No. 6, a position held before him by a specialist like Hanuma Vihari, is the second significant change in India's batting plans.

He's almost there but is he ready yet? He has shown his ability to hit the ball long and hard but can his batting hold fort in the Test format?

You've heard those questions before. But no, we aren't talking about Rohit Sharma here. Along with him, and in his shadow, there was another member of the Indian batting line-up debunking similar doubts that hung over his head. That's Ravindra Jadeja, at No. 6.

Between Wriddhiman Saha, R Ashwin and Jadeja, India have always been comfortable going in with only five specialist batsmen, particularly in the subcontinent. What's changed through this series though is the shuffle in the pecking order. Ashwin, who started off at the top of this pile, has seen the churn taking him to the bottom. And Jadeja up.

Putting Jadeja at No. 6, a position held before him by a specialist like Hanuma Vihari, is the second significant change in India's batting plans, along with Rohit Sharma as opener.

Before he went out to play that role in Pune, Jadeja had done it thrice previously, and none by design. Back then, his promotions were brought about when India were on the hunt for quick runs, and with a declaration in mind. And his approach would match that requirement from the get-go.

The situations in these last two Tests have not been dissimilar. He's walked in at the fall of the fourth wicket with India already racking up 376 (in Pune) and 304 (in Ranchi).

The slot by virtue of acting as the bridge between the top and lower order contains its own challenges, particularly with regards to approach. A slam-bang method would have been perfectly agreeable, had Jadeja gone for it on both occasions.

But what he's preferred to do is play it like a ticking bomb instead. He'd defend, mock-charge straight down the pitch for non-existent singles, try and incite an overthrow from an irritated fielder, and all the while build a partnership that'd through it, ensure that there's no room for wriggle for the opposition. In Ranchi, after facing a hundred balls he'd scored only 34 and similarly in Pune he had 39 after 75.

He's also possibly hand-held through these gameplans by the team. Glove-changes become more frequent, with a message on what the future should hold, perhaps. Kohli was even picked up on the stump mic in Pune, with similar guidance.

In Ranchi, just before he got his slowest Test fifty (off 118 balls), he'd also play three maiden overs on the trot (from Dane Piedt). Another glove-change though soon resulted in his first aggressive shot (slog-sweep) against a spinner all innings.

By this time, India were comfortable enough to go at maximum speed and look at a 'declaration score'. A calling that was fulfilled by Jadeja in Pune, but one he would fall short of in Ranchi. It's this duality that could give him an edge over his competitors, at the moment.

At the end of the day, despite his rich vein of form, Rohit admitted that he "wasn't reading too much" into his batting exploits this series. It was said with an eye on the challenges that would await him as an opener in overseas conditions. It's a thought that also fits Jadeja. For, can he play such a role when India have just 50 and not 300-plus when he walks in? It's a question that needs answering yet, and perhaps could also greatly influence India's combinations overseas.

For now, though, there's a hint that the number 6 could someday be as appropriate as Jadeja's jersey number than the 8 he currently sports.

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