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Jadeja recalls the nickname coined by his IPL captain Warne, insists he is ready for the big stage

Sunday, January 18, 2022

Rock Star is here to stay

Gaurav Saxena

Mumbai: With the images of Ranjitsinhji, Duleepsinhji, Vinoo Mankad and Salim Durani fading and marking an end to the rich cricketing legacy of the Jamnagar district. A 20-year-old comes as a ray of hope – the hope to revive the region's rich cricketing legacy.

Those who admire courage and skill in cricket will give full marks to a certain Ravindrasinh Anirudhsinh Jadeja for his extraordinary talent.

An all-rounder who bats left-hand and bowls orthodox spin, Jadeja has been playing cricket since he was all of ten.

Jadeja was part of the U-19 team that lost the finals of the World Cup in 2006 to Pakistan but bowled a crucial spell of 2 for 25 to bowl India to victory in the finals of the 2008 edition in Malaysia.

Having seen ups and down of a cricketer's life at an early age, he caught the attention of the national selectors with his strong all-round showing in the 2008-09 Ranji Trophy - 42 wickets and 739 runs - and was promptly picked for the ODI series in Sri Lanka.

What's in a name?

Ravindra Jadeja's selection on Sunday was in a way a tacit admission by the national selectors that they made a mistake earlier this season. While selecting the teams for the Challenger Series, only domestic one-day tournament played so far this season, the wise men left out Jadeja from all three teams. Instead the five wise men chose an unknown Ravi Inder Singh from Punjab.
When asked about the 'faux pas' the selectors insisted that they had indeed picked the right guy and had not selected Jadeja on form. This was in late October 2008 when Jadeja was just getting into the groove. Some three months later the selectors have corrected a mistake which saw them in poor light. For the man himself the mistake by the selectors is a closed chapter. 

''Let that be in the past. I don't want to talk about it. I just carried on playing Ranji Trophy then,'' says Jadeja. When pressed further, Jadeja merely offers: ''The good thing is I am in the Indian ODI team, nothing else matters.''

"It's my dream to play for India," says Ravindra Jadeja, who was among the leading performers in the Ranji Trophy season with his accurate left-arm spin and sound batting. This generation of youngsters has grown up only hearing stories of the legends of Jamnagar.

Since India won the Under-19 World Cup, riches have been flowing in the path of the vice-captain of the team. Rs 15 lakh from the BCCI for winning the cup; Reliance Industries Limited has offered him Rs 25,000 per month for the next three years. And then Jaipur roped him in for a whopping Rs 20 lakh for the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches.

"With the money, life has certainly improved," says Ravindra. But will so much of money distort his focus? An emphatic "no" comes from the all-rounder.

"I keep things simple. I know that if I play well, money will come and not the other way round. I will keep my focus right and would like to play for India," said Ravindra.

And there is another reason why he must not lose his focus. Ravindra's mother, who died in July 2005, wanted him to play for India.

"That was the saddest moment of my life," Ravindra says with a voice choked with emotions. But he regains his composure soon after, and says "I will fulfil her dream by wearing India colours during the Sri Lanka tour."

While talking over phone from Jamnagar about 100 kms from Rajkot, the 20-year all-rounder exuded confidence to play positive cricket and play an important role for the side to keep team India's winning momentum going.

''I have been selected for the Indian team and I will try my level best to do well,'' he says.

''It is a great moment for me to be selected in National team and I will give more than cent per cent to prove my selection,'' he adds.

Jadeja, who played in the inaugural IPL for Rajasthan Royal says he was lucky to get chance to play with international cricketers which he thinks to be a great platform for young players like him.

"My captain at Royals- Shane Warne is an inspiration for me. I am eager to meet him and thank him for whatever he taught me during my days in the IPL," he says.

"I remember him calling me a Rock Star. I cherish that compliment and want to thank Hollywood," he grins.

"After such a good Ranji season I was expecting my name to be in the reckoning," Jadeja said after being named in the national squad.

He was easily the best all-rounder in the tournament: Jadeja's 42 wickets made him the joint leading wicket-taker alongside Mumbai's Dhawal Kulkarni and he finished sixth on the run-charts, with 739 at 67.18.

Speaking to the likes of Dav Whatmore and Pravin Amre helped him immensely."The big change was in my batting, where I focused on playing along the ground rather than going for the big hits, which I used to do last year. Whatmore, who was the coach for India Under-19 and then for India A, pointed out that my back-swing was coming from outside the stumps so if I could straighten it I could add more power to my strokes."

Amre, who was the coach at the NCA as well as the India A team that played in the Emerging Players Tournament in Australia, told him that his back foot needed to go across and not side-on if he needed to be in the right position while hitting his shots. "That has played a big role in my success this year as I got a high amount of my runs from the back-foot shots," Jadeja said.

Cheteshwar Pujara, Saurashtra's top-run getter and third overall in the Ranji Trophy this season, feels Jadeja has matured and that has allowed him to prosper.

Pujara says Jadeja has improved as a batsman and can win matches from any situation. About the best moment he shared with Ravindra, Pujara says his unbroken stand of 520 with the all-rounder, the highest in a first-class match in India, was the most cherished one.

"I like to keep my attitude positive always. If there is a situation where the team needs me I like to dominate and finish things off and leave nothing for the next man," said Pujara.

That positive attitude played a huge role in Saurashtra making it to their second straight Ranji Trophy semi-final this season.

"Jadeja is confident he can play the role of an all-rounder in the Indian team if given an opportunity. "I look at myself as an all-rounder and I am confident I can score those 50-60 runs in the middle order and play my hand with the ball and take a few quick wickets in the middle-overs."

So, can the left-arm spinner-batsman turn a new leaf? Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure his attitude suggests that he is here to stay.