How Ravindra Jadeja progressed from being Shane Warne’s ‘Rockstar’ at RR to Dhoni’s successor at CSK

In 2013, MS Dhoni piped up on his twitter: “God realised RAJNI sir is getting old so he created sir ravindra jadeja”. Nine years later, as a logical extension to that wisecrack, since he himself is getting old, he has handed the baton to Ravindra Jadeja.

God realised RAJNI sir is getting old so he created sir ravindra jadeja
— Mahendra Singh Dhoni (@msdhoni) April 9, 2013
Back in his state Saurashtra, his home association was quicker than any press releases ever issued BCCI. Niranjan Shah, an old BCCI hand, nailed the moment perfectly: “The leadership shall give Ravindra a new identification in Indian Cricket,” and ended with a wish, “I sincerely hope that one day he should be leading Team India too”. The observation and the wish both capture how far this remarkable cricketer has come in his career.
What was he a decade ago? The fastest arm in town, a gun fielder. Apart from that? Remarks about his spin were more flippant than genuine. Comments about his batting were even more critical. Shane Warne’s ‘Rockstar’ was seen more as a comment on his own captaincy, how he encourages young players, rather than Jadeja’s talent. The Sir moniker, which he incidentally doesn’t like, wasn’t a taunt and had shades of admiration allright, but it wasn’t a serious appreciation. But the meme-loving generation had sensed a spark in the man with that jesty-tribute.
There were certainly a few people who genuinely believed in him but no one did it more than himself. Every time, an obstacle was thrown, perceived and real, he leaped over in some style. He needs spin tracks, they said, he almost became the best spinner on paata tracks. They said he can’t bat overseas in seaming conditions, now they trust him, especially after that fine 86 in the first innings of Oval Test in 2018 against James Anderson who had knocked out the top order under dark skies. He is not a patch on R Ashwin, they said, but he went on to play as the frontline spin allrounder overseas.

At the h♾️lm! #WhlePodu 🦁 @imjadeja
— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) March 24, 2022
Possessing a charming bullheadedness, he has always found a way to get ahead. When his father, a security guard, wanted to enrol a young Jadeja into the army, he managed to cajole his mother to persuade against the move. His mother tragically died young but he shouldered on through tough times. For a long time, he would borrow shoes to play games, but these days has a farmhouse with his initials RJ inked on the wall, owns and rides horses, and lives like a king. Just as he had always wanted.
He has always found a way. He had some problems scoring against bouncers and just as pacers started to target him. Even MS Dhoni had said in 2015 that he needs to find a way. He did. The balance at the crease improved, and more areas of the field began to be accessed. It’s not commented upon often but he is a batsman who has constantly improved his game. Shane Watson, his IPL team-mate, had noted a couple of years ago how he began to use the knee-flex more at the crease and improved his hitting ability.

Narendra Hirwani, former India spinner who worked at the NCA, tells a story about Jadeja’s bowling. “Tina streetsmart hai na voh, you just have to slip in a point, and he not only catches it quickly but works hard at it.” Back then in 2017, Jadeja had wanted to slow down his pace without losing the bite.
Hirwani says he told him, “You have the most powerful throw in the Indian team, na? When you throw, do one thing —spin ke saath karo— use the same strength, same hand-speed but with spin.” Jadeja told Hirwani that the throw wouldn’t be fast and the ball would lose pace. (“Hiru-bhai, tez nahi jayegi!) “Bas, that’s exactly what you need to do,” Hirwani would tell Jadeja. “Increase the rotations, the ball would go slow.
You go with your usual arm-speed in bowling – don’t think you are bowling slow but increase the RPM on the ball and then see what happens.” And post that series, we have seen Jadeja rip it even more when he wanted to slow the pace down. Steady evolution, in all aspects, that’s been his calling card.
He also knows how to rub it in with style. When Sanjay Manjrekar, the former player turned commentator, called him a ‘bits-and-pieces’ player, he nearly dragged India to an improbable win in the 2019 world cup semifinal. “Tab toh Bhatta garam tha, na! (The grill was hot, then!) I was searching for the commentary box. Then I thought, it must be somewhere there, only. And those who understand would know who I was targeting the celebration at!”
His Indian debut had started with a drop catch. A few minutes after he had received the cap from Sachin Tendulkar in an ODI in Sri Lanka in 2010, he had barely settled in at point, when Sanath Jayasuriya crashed one hard at him. And it popped out of his palms. He couldn’t be kept down long.

Wh7⃣ePodu 💛 Wh8⃣ePodu@msdhoni @imjadeja
— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) March 24, 2022
A fiery quick throw from the deep fetched him a run out. He played a fine knock too, in the company of his captain Dhoni, to win the game. For ten days before that game, whenever one bumped into him around the team hotel or post training, he would talk about how he understands he has to wait for his chance but how he has promised himself that he would grab it with both hands. “Bus aap dekhiye!” He had said with a confidence that was startling for a youngster who was yet to make his debut.
The mind went back to 2007 just after Saurashtra had tamed Mumbai at Wankhede in the Ranji Trophy; he had fallen 13 runs short of a maiden first-class hundred, top-edging an attempted slog sweep, and for two days his captain Sitanshu Kotak had been pulling his leg in jest, calling him “Gadha!” (Donkey).
An hour after the game, Jadeja burst into Kotak’s room, and after smiling at the name-calling again, said he was rushing out to meet a friend. When Kotak reminded him that the team had to catch the train in a couple of hours time, he said he would be found on the platform and off he ran out. Kotak smiled, and said, “watch this boy; halke mey nahi lena (don’t take him lightly), he will go a long way. So confident, so hungry, thoda bachpana hai abhi (there is a bit of immaturity now), but I have not seen a hungrier kid like him in the circuit.”

A smile was offered in return as one had to rush to the upper floor of the hotel to catch another young Saurashtrian Cheteshwar Pujara, who was busy downloading his batting videos that he had borrowed from Mumbai team analyst. Saurashtra didn’t have the fancy gadgets then but it’s quite something that both the earnest kid and the masti-loving hungry kid have come a long way.
We have no inkling of how he would captain as there is no past to fall back on but one thing can be surely said about the bullheaded man who never let others’ opinions affect his own inner confidence. He will surprise and find a way. He has always evolved and earned the players’ respect. Halke mey mat lena.

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