Chennai Super Kings have been weirdly trying to force Ravindra Jadeja up the order in IPL 2024, and it’s hard to figure out why, writes Naman Agarwal.

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Lucknow, 2024. CSK have just lost their second wicket for 33 in the fifth over. Shivam Dube, currently in the form of his life, is slated to come in next. He does not. Instead, Chennai send Ravindra Jadeja, who has not batted above Dube thus far in IPL 2024, to No.4 for the first time since 2022 and only the third time since 2014.

Jadeja ends up scoring his third IPL fifty. A masterstroke, then, you’d think? Only that his unbeaten 57 runs come off 40 balls at a strike rate of 143. His last five balls fetch just five runs. Thanks to a late flourish by MS Dhoni, CSK finish at 176-6, but it ends up being too short as LSG chase it down with an over and eight wickets to spare.

It was not the first time that they had promoted Jadeja. Against SRH in Hyderabad, Jadeja came in at No.5, ahead of Daryl Mitchell, Moeen Ali, and Dhoni, and made 31 off 23 at a strike rate of 135 while batting first. Like the Lucknow game, CSK finished with a sub-par total which was easily chased down.

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One would expect CSK to have learnt their lesson after these two lapses. As it turned out, they hadn’t. On Tuesday (April 23) in Chepauk, in the reverse fixture against Lucknow Super Giants, they sent Jadeja in at No.4 again, with the scoreboard reading 49-2 in 5.2 overs.

To be fair to Jadeja, who has always had the reputation of taking his time to settle in, he did try and go after the bowling from ball one. In fact, he played an attacking shot to almost every single ball he faced. Yet, despite his best efforts, all he could manage was a 19-ball 16 before gloving a bouncer by Mohsin Khan in the 12th over through to the wicketkeeper.

There were no celebrations after that wicket. Such was the progression of Jadeja’s knock that LSG perhaps knew that getting him out didn’t really help their cause. And they were right.

Dube arrived next, and did what he has been doing in the last couple of years. Hit sixes. Plenty of them.

By the time he had faced as many deliveries as Jadeja, Dube was batting on nearly thrice his score: 45. By the time he was dismissed, he had made 66 off 27 balls at a strike rate of 244.

If Jadeja’s painstaking knock didn’t look good to begin with, Dube’s effort made it look worse.

CSK eventually finished with 210-4, largely because of Ruturaj Gaikwad’s ton and Dube’s onslaught. They did that in spite of CSK’s poor management of resources which saw Dhoni, also in great nick, face just one ball; Moeen Ali and Sameer Rizvi face none; and Jadeja 19. Even that didn’t end up being enough, though, as a Marcus Stoinis-inspired LSG chased down the target with three balls to spare.

Notice a trend yet?

It’s hard to think of a sensible reason behind consistently promoting Jadeja from any of the three perspectives that matter in this case: CSK’s, Jadeja’s, and the Indian T20I team’s.

After the defeat, Gaikwad said that since the second wicket fell inside the powerplay, Jadeja was sent out at four: “Jaddu is batting at number four since we lost the second wicket within the powerplay.” He reasoned that Dube is only designated to go out after the powerplay: “We have a clear process. Our thinking is clear that after the powerplay if there is a wicket, Shivam will come out to bat.”

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But does it make sense to end up delaying the entry point of your best batter by six overs just to avoid letting him face four balls inside the powerplay? More importantly, does it make sense to not trust your best batter, who has shown consistent and rapid signs of improvement against all types of bowling, to see out four deliveries of the powerplay?

Jadeja has struck at 113 against spin across his T20 career. In the middle overs, that number drops down to 105. Knowing that the fields would open up and spin would be on after the sixth over, CSK could have promoted Moeen if shielding Dube was paramount. Moeen strikes at 149 against spin in the middle overs and also has the experience of batting inside the powerplay for CSK.

The only period where Jadeja the T20 batter had a significant positive in his career was during IPL 2020 and 2021, when he excelled as a pace-hitting finisher. If he makes the T20 World Cup squad for India, it would be as a spin-bowling all-rounder who would most likely bat at No.7, which makes his constant promotion to the middle order all the more baffling.

Instead, both CSK and Jadeja should be looking to get his finishing abilities, which seem to have taken a hit in the last couple of years as his death overs strike rate of 161 since IPL 2022 suggests, back on track. For context, 39 batters who have faced more than 25 balls at the death since IPL 2022 have a strike rate of 180 or more. That would be in the best interest of all parties involved, unlike what they are doing now – which is turning him into something he is very clearly not.