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Andrew Flintoff showed the charisma of a leader even before he burst onto the international scene. But much like Ian Botham, he was never a successful captain. However, that wasn’t the worst he could do to his abundant talent. He wasted most of it during the early part of his career due to brash attitude and overweight problems which powered over his ability with the bat and the ball. On the other hand, the latter half was plagued with injuries bringing a hastened end to a colourful career. If not for the hype that English media surrounds its sportsmen with, Flintoff’s stats wouldn’t have done justice to his cricketing laurels.
For almost four years, England captains persisted with Flintoff in the hope that one day the 6 ft 4 inch giant would shoulder the responsibility expected of him. What followed after 2002-03, is a part of cricketing folklore. Along with Jacques Kallis, Flintoff ended up as arguably the best all-rounder of the first decade of the 21st century, with the 2005 Ashes victory being the highlight.
Ravindra Jadeja’s start to international cricket makes for an interesting parallel study. Netizens have sarcastically ripped apart Jadeja’s calibre and potential, which included the mock knighting of the Saurashtra player.
However, the entire hype around Jadeja’s poor performance is questionable. With an ODI batting average of almost 30 and bowling economy rate of 4.32 and average of around 35, the question becomes more valid. Yes, he has failed at crucial times and by no stretch of imagination has he done justice to his talent, but he has given enough reasons to be persisted with. His domestic record makes his case all the more stronger.
Jadeja’s batting stats
Jadeja’s bowling stats:
What takes Jadeja to the level of Flintoff is his attitude in failure. Like the Englishman, Jadeja too has a sense of brashness within him and it almost helps him come out of poor performances. Constant mocking and jokes by media and fans alike had virtually killed the enigma that surrounded Flintoff. Yet, for the big man to put his head down and succumb in defeat was the last option. His arrogance was on display on the field, without wanting to prove himself to anyone. The T-shirt waving act at Wankhede in 2002 had turned to just a spread of arms in 2005. While both were representing success, they were giving out different signs of self contentment. The former was about proving a point to the critics, while the latter showed that the mighty man ruled his game. Jadeja’s performances in the last two ODIs are an indication of a man unaware of the criticisms of the ignorant. He has brought in as much arrogance in his game as anybody would, but without being over-zealous to pit his own downfall like he had done in the past.
Similar to Flintoff, media and fans have written-off the immense potential that exists in Jadeja and it wouldn’t be surprising if he makes the critics to eat their words.
What Jadeja needs now is the backing of a good skipper. He has already displayed his class and value in the Indian Premier League (IPL) under the captaincy of Shane Warne for Rajasthan Royals. One would argue that although Dhoni has backed him and shown enough faith, he has probably underutilised him, both as a bowler and a batsman, for Chennai Super Kings as well as India. Flintoff faced a similar problem, till Michael Vaughan took over the England captaincy.
Given the dearth of genuine all-rounders that India is facing currently, Jadeja is needed for the longer run, especially in the limited-overs format. If Dhoni can find a solution to optimise Jadeja’s abilities, the all-rounder has all the ingredients to script another Flintoff-like story of success. With the recent turn of events, Dhoni and Jadeja seem to be walking that path. If they ensure successful execution of the same, Indian cricket stands to prosper for long.
(While enjoying the small joys of life, rarely has anything mesmerised Aayush Puthran more than cricket. A student of Journalism in Mumbai, he is trying to figure out two things: ways to make Test cricket a commercial hot property and the best way to beat Mumbai traffic. He has a certain sense of obsession with novelty. He might seem confused, but he is just battling a thousand demons within his mind. Nonetheless, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of coffee!)
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