There are two main reasons why cricketers are annoying. (1) They play for your team and they aren’t very good. (2) They play for the opposition and they are very good.
The first is self-evident. The second is rather more nuanced and deserves a little bit of elaboration. So let’s very quickly do that.
To be fully annoying, an opposition cricketer must be not just effective, but more effective than you think they deserve to be. To really put the top hat on it, they should then act like they’re even better than that.
Ravindra Jadeja meets these requirements. He is pretty annoying and we are very much relieved whenever India decide to not pick him. That is a compliment, which is very unfortunate because of course we don’t really want to pay him compliments.
First of all, Jadeja bowls like he has only just started bowling and isn’t really a bowler and doesn’t much care how things go because he’s not a bowler so do what you like, it doesn’t matter to him, he’s not a bowler. Employing this method, he is easing his way towards 200 Test wickets at an average in the low 20s.
That’s an annoyingly good record, but after learning to appreciate the subtleties of his bowling approach and slowly coming to recognise his qualities, you’ll look at it and probably still think it’s annoying and undeserved.
But Ravindra Jadeja doesn’t think that. Ravindra Jadeja generally maintains an air of having completely mastered cricket. Ravindra Jadeja celebrates a fifty – a fifty – with a twirly sword celebration.
That is disproportionate. (It is also entertaining and he should absolutely carry on doing it.)
Ravindra Jadeja swans through Test cricket like he belongs there. And he does. Which is annoying.
Imagine you have a good knife and a really shitty knife. You regularly use both, but the shitty one’s kind of shitty. It can cope with cheese and maybe a courgette, but you’d never risk it on an onion or something like that.
One day you want to slice a tomato. Tomato slicing is not a task you entrust to a shitty knife. That’s how you lose a finger. So you pick up the good knife, you position it on the tomato and apply pressure.
You’ve done it a thousand times before, it’s always worked perfectly, but on this occasion the blade fails to penetrate the skin. Instead it slips back towards your hand and gouges into your fingers. ‘Brilliant,’ you think. ‘The good knife’s gone all shitty. What the hell am I supposed to do now?’
There’s nothing you can do. You set what was once the good knife aside (because for some completely inexplicable reason you’ve never invested in a nice whetstone, so it’s basically blunt forever) and you instead grasp the shitty knife. The shitty knife has just been reinstated as the best knife.
You then proceed to mash the tomato to useless pulp.
Point is, from time to time you’re going to find yourself in a position where something that you routinely rely on suddenly lets you down and you end up having to use the back-up thing as the main thing.
This is what happened when Sri Lanka doled out the hammery to Ravindra Jadeja.
Jadeja went for 52 runs in six overs and Virat Kohli was left thinking: “Wait… what?” – or something along those lines.
He was then forced to make the exact opposite bowling change to the one he’s been conditioned to execute whenever he’s been confronted with an instance of bowler hammery in the past. Instead of bringing Jadeja on, he took Jadeja off.
So what happened? Well, Jadeja had become father to a baby girl earlier in the day. Even if the skiver didn’t show up for the debilitatingly intense bit, that kind of a thing can seriously blunt a man for pretty much the whole of the rest of the day.
Probably. We wouldn’t blame them one bit.
Imagine being down the pub with your mates, talking about cricket. The company’s good, the beverages are exquisite: you’re in your element. The next day, you find yourself in an overpriced city centre drink hole along with some colleagues. They’re talking about potential comings and goings during football’s winter transfer window. You stand awkwardly, sipping some sort of acrid liquid which you’d assumed was the best option available to you. You’re not in your element.
In his last international match – a Test match against South Africa in Delhi – R Ashwin bowled 49.1 overs in the second innings, taking 5-61. He took 31 wickets in the series at an average of 11.12, conceding 2.09 runs an over. For his part, Ravindra Jadeja took 23 wickets at 10.82 and conceded 1.76 runs an over.
The pair were strike bowlers, holding bowlers and they barely took a break. They did everything.
But cricket encompasses a lot. Today, in a one-day international against Australia, Ashwin took 2-68 off nine and Jadeja 0-61 off nine. They were bit-part players and, but for Ashwin’s wickets, it could even be argued that they were liabilities.
So it goes. Sometimes all you can do is sip your Amstel and try and make the best of things.
It’s okay to start headlines with ‘and’ when you’re emphasising the repetitive nature of something.
Ravindra Jadeja isn’t exactly the tail, of course. Even if you play half your domestic matches on the world’s flattest pitch, scoring three triple hundreds shifts you out of the tail-end category never to return. He bats wonkily, but with gusto and when he gets it right, it sounds less like a cricket shot and more like a gunshot.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar seems rather too skilled to be considered a tail-ender as well. He’s looked a damn sight more solid than Alastair Cook, which reflects on both of them. Don’t worry, we’ll return to Cook next week. If you’re desperate to read more about the England captain’s plight, we’re sure you can find something pretty much anywhere.
As far as this match goes, England have to score plenty of runs on a fifth day pitch where both seamers and spinners look threatening. Unless the play somehow takes on a completely different form, they will lose. The fourth innings isn’t the problem. This match will have been lost thanks to cowardly first innings bowling and an inability to polish off innings. Bowling first using tired bowlers seemed odd too, but perhaps Captain Hindsight is paying a visit there. The bowlers probably could have made it the right decision.
In some parts of England, they talk about ‘schools cricket’ – note the plural. This is a bizarre, alien form of the game in which posh 15-year-olds play on immaculate grounds in exquisite locations having been expertly coached by former internationals. ‘School cricket’ (singular) is rather different.
In school cricket, everyone is useless and there is no gear. At best, the batsmen will be sharing a set of pads and if there are gloves, they’ll be those ones with the spiky rubber bits on the back. The game is played on a bobbly football field with cut grass left behind in clumps. Even if there were a boundary, no-one could reach it because of the bats and terrain.
We thought of school cricket while watching Ravindra Jadeja’s wickets from this series. To be clear, this isn’t a reflection on his ability. It’s more to do with his bowling style and the batsmen’s ability.
Jadeja trots up to the crease and delivers the ball round-arm at about 50mph. That is how you bowl in school cricket – slowly and round-arm. He is aiming at the stumps, because that is what you do in school cricket (there is no point having elaborate plans). The batsman then misses the ball, even though it doesn’t spin or do anything and finds that he has been bowled. Ravindra Jadeja then takes the bat off the batsman so that he can have a go at batting.
Okay, so the last bit doesn’t happen, but the rest of it is no different to school cricket. Basically, Jadeja is bowling slow, straight deliveries with a round-arm action and England’s finest batsmen are missing them. Why is this?
We’re told it’s because they are playing for the turn and this begs the question: “Why are you playing for the turn?”
This is a pretty decent question when Jadeja’s bowling, because he doesn’t really spin the ball a right lot. It’s not a bad question all round though. Is this really how professional batsmen approach spin bowling? We thought it was all about playing back and watching the turn or playing forward and negating the turn? Is just sort of guessing where the ball might end up and aiming for that particular patch of air a genuine gameplan?
This isn’t rhetoric. We’re actually asking. Do professional cricketers actually do this deliberately, expecting that they will succeed?