The 25-year-old, considered an all-rounder with his modest left-arm orthodox action and ability to wield the bat lower down the order, has been thrust into the role of lead spinner for a country that tends to build its attack around slow bowlers.
Jadeja appeared to have justified selection ahead of specialist off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in the second test at Lord’s, where his quickfire 68 in the second innings may not have pleased the purists but set up India’s 95-run victory.
He also contributed three wickets with the Indian pacemen causing the maximum damage on a green wicket as the tourists enjoyed a rare overseas victory to move 1-0 ahead in the five-match series.
However, by the time he arrived in Southampton, Jadeja had been docked half of his match fee from the drawn opening test in Nottingham over an alleged off-field contretemps with England bowler James Anderson at Trent Bridge.
The issue has rumbled on with India appealing the International Cricket Council (ICC) verdict and their own complaint against Anderson to have “abused and pushed” Jadeja during the same incident waiting to be heard on Friday.
The controversy seemed to have taken its toll on Jadeja’s on-field performances too, as he dropped a routine catch at slip from an out-of-sorts England captain Alastair Cook in the first innings with the batsman on 15.
Cook welcomed the reprieve with relish, arrested his slump in form and went on to make 95, as well as an unbeaten 70 in the second innings, inspiring England with his new-found confidence which culminated in a series-tying 266-run thrashing.
Jadeja’s form with the bat also dropped as he contributed just 31 and 15 in his two innings as India slid to defeat.
It was, however, his bowling which was the biggest letdown for India, coming on a track sporting an increasing number of rough patches scuffed up by the pacemen in their delivery stride.
Jadeja denied Cook a century in the first innings but that minor victory offered scant consolation for the spilled catch as the England captain added 158 runs with centurion Gary Balance for the second wicket.
It was that stand that set the tone for England’s massive total of 569 for seven declared and India’s capitulation under the mountain of runs was an inevitable conclusion once they fell 239 runs short of first innings parity.
Jadeja claimed five wickets in the match but three of those came in the second innings when England threw the bat at everything to score quick runs before setting a target that proved well beyond India’s reach.
The inadequacy of Jadeja’s efforts was put into context when compared to the role Moeen Ali played for England.
The bearded off-spinner, originally selected as a batsman who offers part-time bowling duties, made brilliant use of the rough and claimed six second innings wickets as he ran through an Indian batting order renowned for their ability to play spin.
“We allowed Moeen to bowl his line and length. There was considerable amount of wear and tear on the pitch that went his way, and there were a lot of close-in fielders too,” India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni told reporters.
“I just felt that we could have been a bit more positive against him.”
While Ali picked up eight wickets in the test, capitalising on the spin-friendly conditions that had peaked by the end of the fourth day, Jadeja appeared bereft of ideas and unable to offer any sort of tangible threat.
The clamour has naturally grown to bring in Ashwin, who also has two test hundreds, for the next two tests and Dhoni will find it difficult to resist the demand.
(Editing by John O’Brien)