AFTER hammering four boundaries off Chris Woakes in the 122nd over of the first innings to take his personal score to 89, Ravindra Jadeja was sensibly sober in the next over bowled by Gareth Batty. He blocked one of the two balls he had faced to cover to steal a single. On the nervous 90 for the first time in his Test career, Jadeja switched himself into aggressive mode and charged down the pitch in a cavalier attempt at sending Adil Rashid over the long-on boundary that ended in the hands of Woakes.
Disappointed? No way. “That’s my shot and I always hit that ball for six,” Jadeja sounded nonchalant at the end of play on day three of the Mohali Test. A day later, after India won the third Test by eight wickets inside four days, Jadeja had an amazing change of mind and told Sanjay Manjrekar at the presentation ceremony that he would be careful the next time around. That was turning 360 degrees from where he was in less than 24 hours.
What could have made Jadeja relook his game and strategy within such a short time? The answer is simple and obvious. The unprecedented protocols being set in place by Anil Kumble and Virat Kohli are doing the trick.
A month ago, Kumble spelled out how he would want things to get going when a player got injured. The injured should put in his best effort to get himself 100% fit again, but he shouldn’t look to come back into the team rather too quickly. That’s not going to help the team or the player, so the guy need to go back to domestic cricket and prove his fitness.
The Kumble protocol will be in force unless there is an emergency. With Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, the only two guys around who could bowl at 140kmh consistently, running in hard and bending their back to get awesome returns, fit-again fast bowlers Ishant Sharma and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar warmed the bench in the first three Tests, along with uncapped Hardik Pandya who subsequently made his exit after picking up a shoulder injury while training. Sharma has been released from the team for his December 9 wedding, Bhuvaneshwar will have to wait for the right conditions to get back in the playing eleven and Pandya is likely to be out of action at least for six weeks.
Injury is part and parcel of the life of any sportsperson. There’s no way one could avoid getting injured, but one could be doing a little bit to give himself a better chance. How? “Eat, sleep, train, repeat.” That’s the Kohli protocol on keeping oneself fit, which is boring, but the skipper, who does a crazy number of squats to pump explosive power into his legs, says the boys need to be boring with their training to be consistent.
The new protocols have brought a new attitude in the team. Lazy fielders are now running after the ball with a real intent to block a boundary or deny another run. They dive, leap into the air and throw hard from the deep. They don’t take their place in the squad for granted. And nobody would now walk off the field over a niggle.
Jayant Yadav, who made his Test debut in the current series against England, impressed the captain and the coach with his attitude and approach in both the Tests he has played, with bat as well as ball. Ashwin, known for his batting skills as well, cannot rest on his laurels. Competition is so tough that Jadeja feels the need not to miss an opportunity to up his stake. The normally cool and consistent Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay are the only guys who looked rusty and out of sync, and they don’t need to be told anything about the need to up their ante — it’s obvious.
Under the circumstances, it’s difficult to foresee how Alastair Cook and his blokes could stand up to this Indian armada under the command of captain Kohli. Neither a break in Dubai nor a suggestion — kidnapping Sachin Tendulkar to train the team — made in jest by former prime minister David Cameron may conjure up the magic. Perhaps, what Tendulkar has suggested — a new strategy that would split a Test series into back-to-back home and away matches that, if it were in place now, would have required Kohli and his army to board a flight to London to play the remaining two Tests there — might.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman