The World Test Championship is a test of mental strategies: Ravindra Jadeja

The Indian all-rounder, now at No 2 in the ICC rankings, is raring to take on New Zealand in the final of the marquee tournament

Published: Jun 15, 2021 09:25:29 AM IST
Updated: Jun 15, 2021 02:57:07 PM IST

Image: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

There isn’t a single aspect of cricket where Ravindra Jadeja wasn’t initially written off. Is he a batsman fit for Test cricket? Is his left-arm spin wily enough? Is International cricket his cup of tea? These were questions that were asked over and over again. Not any more. In 2019, the Saurashtra player, nicknamed ‘Rockstar’ by spin legend Shane Warne, became the quickest among left-arm spinners to take 200 Test wickets (in 44 matches). In his nine-year Test career, Jadeja has notched up 15 half-centuries and one century; his valiant batting down the order has often steadied the team after top-order collapses: Consider the 2018 Test against England at the Oval, or the 2019 World Cup semifinal against New Zealand. And his electrifying fielding has felled top batsmen, saved runs and drawn praise from peers like Australian Steve Smith, who called him the best fielder in the game. 

Recently, Jadeja became the No 2-ranked all-rounder for Tests, behind Jason Holder of the West Indies, putting to rest all speculation about his abilities. In an email interview ahead of the World Test Championship final against New Zealand, beginning Friday, Jadeja told Forbes India about his preparations for the game, his strategy to stay sharp, and the key turning point of his career. Edited excerpts: 

How are you preparing for the World Test Championship final?

The ICC World Test Championship final will be held at Ageas Bowl in Southampton, UK, and the stadium is great for swing, fast and spin bowlers. I have been working on improving my spin by taking tips from my teammates and coaches. The pitch suggests spin will be an important aspect, especially towards the end of the game. I have also been working on my stroke play, preparing myself to play for longer innings, and hoping to put up top runs on the scoreboard. With past performances, I’m confident in my act. The World Test Championship is much like a physical marathon, but a test of our mental strategies. We have been longing to go one up on the Kiwis for a long time. 

As an all-rounder, there is a lot of pressure on you to perform. Does that take a toll on you mentally?

It does sometimes, but I stick to my routine, which includes waking up early, following my diet, working out, spending time with my family. My workout, especially running, is a vital part of the daily routine, combined with shoulder strength training and stretching to keep myself flexible. To deliver, it is important to be physically fit and mentally active. I also feel that the ‘Sound Mind in a Sound Body’ philosophy of Asics [sportswear firm that recently roped him as the brand ambassador], is more appropriate than ever, especially during a challenging period like the Covid-19 pandemic. And I would like to highlight the importance of keeping both your body and mind in check by leading an active lifestyle. 

You had a tough time last year, with an injury during the India-Australia series, when you were ruled out for almost six weeks. How do you deal with a setback like that?

I believe in moving forward and working towards it. My priority was to overcome my injury, and the rehab camp at the NCA helped me get back on track, although it took longer than expected. 

Like every sportsperson, you’ve had your highs and lows. What do you tell yourself when things aren’t going your way?

Acceptability is key; I read this in one of Sachin Tendulkar’s interviews. It is normal to go through highs and lows. Over a period of time, I have realised that besides preparing physically for a game, you have to prepare yourself mentally also. 

What is a champion mindset? How does one build it?

To answer this question, I would like to go back to the 2018 Test match [against England at the Oval, where I scored 86, coming to bat at No 8] as it changed everything. I got my second chance to regain my performance, my confidence and everything. Pre-2018, I wasn’t playing ODIs. I wasn’t playing domestic too as I would be travelling with the Indian team, even though not playing. I wasn’t getting any opportunity to prove myself. I would keep thinking about how I am going to come back. The Test at the Oval completely changed my game and my confidence. After that, I never looked back. I worked on my technique, my fitness, and mentally I prepared myself to take every game as my first and last, and [also told myself] that the only person I need to prove to is myself. 

You are acknowledged as one of the best fielders in international cricket. What are some of the practices you follow to hone that aspect of the game?

I try to do the basics: Some shoulder strength exercises in the gym, so that it helps my throws. Apart from that, basic field drills along with the team, which helps me with accuracy in the matches. 

What would you consider to be some of your biggest achievements?

The three triple centuries in Ranji Trophy, the 2019 World Cup semifinal [where I scored 77 off 59 balls]. Then, the two Under-19 World Cups in 2006 and 2008, when I was part of the winning teams. In the Champions Trophy in 2013, I was the highest wicket-taker with 12 wickets, and we won the competition. In England in 2016, when, after taking 26 wickets in the Test series where we beat England 4-0, I reached the top spot in the Test bowling rankings. And, finally, last week, when I became No 2 in the ICC Test rankings in the all-rounder category. 

How did the association with Asics come about?

Asics has an incredible track record for helping athletes across sports and enabling them reach the peak of their sport. I identify with their vision and philosophy and hope that together we can drive a more relevant and meaningful change in the minds and lives of young athletes. Our aim is to improve the participation of Indian youth in sports and I am confident of catalysing a positive change in this direction with Asics. I am happy to be part of this journey with the brand, and working towards unlocking the unique power of sport to uplift our minds and bodies.

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