Ben Jones analyses a knock for the ages.
Ravindra Jadeja walked up to the border between history, and just another day. He placed his hand on the glass. Nothing gave.
When Ravindra Jadeja arrived at the crease today, the score was 92-6. India were in the mire. Their chances with WinViz were 3%. Just three in 100 times were they going to win from that position. Three days in one hundred.
Yet from there, Jaddu had us thinking that maybe, today was one of those three days. He had Indians thinking that they’d rolled the dice and maybe just maybe, they’d struck lucky. Perhaps, today was the day.
This wasn’t because he did anything complicated. He sunk in, and allowed the pressure of New Zealand’s onslaught to wash over him. Matt Henry and Trent Boult had been astonishing, but the ball had stopped swinging; the point at which Jadeja arrived was the point at which things got easier in terms of the lateral movement. He came to the middle as the threat lessened.
From there, he counter attacked. Accompanied by the ghost of MS Dhoni, limping to retirement like a grayscale Mona Lisa, Jadeja decided that today was his day. Now, was the time for him to take India to a global final.
He attacked 49% of his deliveries, swinging and charging and throwing his weight behind a fightback that rarely felt likely. It rarely felt less than impossible, but Jadeja knew what was happening. That straight six, those fortuitous edges for four. There was something in the air, that made you think that somehow, this was on.
Today, he faced 59 balls. Jadeja has faced that many balls in 12 ODI innings; he’s never scored as quickly as he did today. This was the highest stage of all, and he stepped up, offering his most incisive, influential innings ever.
If we look deeper, at what happened, it’s clear that what Jadeja offered was special. His Batting Impact was +46; that means that he lifted India’s score by 46 runs compared to what we’d expect from the average player. It’s not a ridiculous figure, and it reflects the influence he had on the match in Manchester as it stood. The only reason we had a game today is because the man in the middle was the sword-wielding Chennai Super King.
He arrived with India’s WinViz at 3%. As he swung the bat for his final delivery, it had risen to 30%. As he left, having top edged and thrown down his sword, he had done his job. Single-handedly, he had given his side a chance, isolated as the sole potential match-winner dragging his team and his nation towards the finish line. It was the sort of pose he had watched Hardik Pandya assume at The Oval two years ago, and it was the pose he saw collapse to the ground in frustration. Today, he seemed determined not to fall as he had seen the younger man fall in a similar moment.
When Jadeja ran out Hardik , in the Champions Trophy final, hope was gone for India. Realistically, it was gone before the dismissal. There was no genuine chance that India could have overturned Pakistan, no real sense that it could have been turned around.
But hope isn’t realistic, especially when it’s hypothetical. Hope is something else, something abstract, every dwindling and growing with the situation. He may have extinguished the smallest flame when he made that mistake, but it was extinguished nonetheless. Jadeja had snuffed out India’s final hope of rescuing that chase.
Jadeja has had more than two years to sit on those memories of 2017. To recite his call into the bathroom mirror. To sit, and think, about what could have been. Regret, in all its forms, is all-consuming.
Which is why, even though India lost today, something special occurred. Not medals won, nothing gained in a tangible sense, but what Jadeja did was something few before have managed . He exorcised his demons, and overcame the past.
India will be hurting tonight, tomorrow, for the foreseeable. They are probably the best team in the tournament, certainly the most balanced, and will feel that this is a huge missed opportunity. Another world title was in their reach, comfortably. If only they’d catalysed on New Zealand’s top order issues. If only they’d squeezed harder this morning. If only, if only, if only.
That’s the pain of losing in these matches. You’re not destined to simply be seen as a very good team who, on a given day, were unlucky; you’re destined to over-analyse every mistake you made for the next tournament cycle. It’s pain, drawn out and spread across the global stage, stretched thin and terrifyingly visible.
Jadeja knows this. He’s known it, and now he knows it again. Perhaps India can take solace in the fact that, as their all-rounder has shown, there is always another a chance. You always get the next time round, the global stage always comes full circle and gives you another chance. Nobody doubts India’s quality. Very few will doubt their will.
Today, for India, was about one man leading the way; first to victory, and now to redemption. They’ll be back in four years time, just as he was. Jaddu returned, and so will India.
Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.