‘He is a Rockstar….the future of Indian cricket’. This is how Rajasthan Royals skipper Shane Warne described Ravindra Jadeja during the course of the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) last year. It’s hardly surprising that Jadeja was selected in the Indian ODI squad.
Hailing from the former princely state of Jamnagar in Gujarat, a place that gave India great cricketers like Ranjitsinhji, Duleepsinhji and Vinoo Mankad, who went on to engrave India’s name in cricketing history, Jadeja is a superb athlete, who nicely fits the bill as a genuine all-rounder which is so rare in Indian cricket.
Breaking Jamnagar’s royal tradition of producing ‘Maharajas’ as cricketers, Ravindra Jadeja, the son of a watchman, joins the cluster of new breed of young cricketers in India who despite having modest backgrounds, dare to dream big.
That he dreamt big is a testimony to his daredevil attitude on the field. Whatever the situation might be, he never shies away from imminent challenges. Looking at his cricketing career so far, one can safely say that Jadeja is one of those tough cricketers, who get going when the going gets tough. The brisk half-centurion knock he played against Karnataka, when his team, Saurashtra, were pushed to the wall in the Ranji quarters, shows that the man has the guts and temperament to succeed at the highest level.
On that day Cheteshwar Pujara, steady as ever, needed someone at the other end to carry the team forward in the great run-chase. A left-arm orthodox spinner and a left handed batsman, Jadeja happily courted the challenge and came up with an inspiring innings that helped Saurashtra chase over 300-runs.
If with his counter attacking innings of 143 against Delhi in the league stage Jadeja heralded himself as a batsman to be reckoned with, the under pressure half-century in the quarters showed the grit in the man, which is so essential to succeed at the international level.
In the 2008-09 Ranji season, he has grown from strength to strength as an all-rounder. From a bits and pieces cricketer, he established himself as a true all-rounder with 42 wickets and 739 runs in this season which ultimately earned him an India call.
For a left arm orthodox bowler, who used to bowl flat a year back, his emergence as a highest wicket taker in Ranji shows the character of the man, who doesn’t hesitate to learn. As the season progressed, he started giving a lot of air to his bowling, using the rough patches of the pitch and confusing the batsmen with his arm ball, which he employed with great effect.
The fact that he is a superb T20 cricketer was evident in the inaugural IPL, where he used the big handle with great skill at some crucial junctures and took a few scintillating catches while playing for the Rajasthan Royals. But he never earned Warne’s faith as a frontline bowler, as his bowling was hardly used during the entire tournament.
Earlier in the year, though he demonstrated his all-round ability in the under-19 world cup, which India went on to win, he was never seen as an established player before this year’s Ranji season.
No one ever doubted his ability to don India colours from the very outset, but that it will happen so early was not predicted even by the astute Warne.
Having said that, we should understand that though he is a tremendously gifted player, he is not yet a final product, but more of a raw talent. He is only in his maiden first-class season and has plenty to learn both as a batsman and as a bowler.
Keeping that in mind, we should refrain from unnecessarily burdening the 20-year-old chap and allow him to concentrate by letting him enjoy his game. Indian cricket can’t afford to lose another gem of a player like Narender Hirwani, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan or Maninder Singh. For that we have to be patient. Only the future will tell us whether he will be our next Vinoo Mankad or not…