Ravindra Jadeja © Getty Images
Ravindra Jadeja is a clear match-winner in limited-overs cricket for India © Getty Images

Ravindra Jadeja, born December 6, 1988, is India’s talismanic all-rounder in the limited-overs formats. An aggressive batsman, handy left-arm spinner, and brilliant fielder, Jadeja is the complete package for the modern captain. While he has proven his worth in ODIs and T20 cricket, he is yet a work in progress in white flannels. Nishad Pai Vaidya profiles Jadeja.

Not many see the beauty in Ravindra Jadeja’s journey so far. It is a tale of a youngster overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds to become one of the most valuable players in India. From looking undercooked in his early days at the highest level to putting up dominating performances; Jadeja has seen the highs and lows in a relatively short career.  From being one of the most mocked players on social media to being the toast of the nation, he is no stranger to the double-edged sword that is fame. Jadeja is a typical modern cricketer — he is an aggressive batsman, effective bowler and brilliant fieldsman. Any captain would be delighted to have him in the side.

In a country that yearned for a good all-rounder post the Kapil Dev era, Jadeja brought in a lot of hope as a youngster. India had to cut corners to fit in the perfectly balanced side in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Rahul Dravid had to don the gloves to allow the extra bowler or the seventh batsman. On the other hand, part-timers became an important part of the setup in limited overs cricket. Not to forget the move to convert Irfan Pathan into an all-rounder, with his bowling taking the brunt of the pressure. Jadeja was a spin-bowler, with an ability to bat with spunk. India couldn’t ignore him!

Early days

Jadeja was born in Navgam-Khed, Gujarat, on December 6, 1988. To be precise, he was born in the region of Saurashtra — one that has a rich cricketing heritage having produced KS Ranjitsinhji and KS Duleepsinhji. However, Jadeja’s background was contrasting. Though he shares his surname with a few princely families, Jadeja grew up in a modest setting. His father, Anirudhsinh, was a security guard and his mother Lata was a nurse. It was not easy for Jadeja to rise through the ranks, but his parents managed to support him in his dreams. He lost his mother when he was a teenager and that was a huge setback in the pursuit of his dreams.

Ravindra Jadeja © AFP
Ravindra Jadeja made his First-Class debut in 2006 © AFP

In January 2002, Jadeja was selected for the Saurashtra under-14 side. On debut against Maharashtra under-14s, he hit 87 and took 4 for 72. Jadeja continued to deliver consistent performances in age group cricket with both bat and ball. At the age of 15, he had made it into the Saurashtra under-19s side and had hit his maiden ton in representative cricket. At only 16, he was in the under-22 side which normally features the youngsters on the brink of making it into the Ranji side. In December 2005 he put in some fantastic performances for Saurashtra under-19s and was picked for the under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka.

In that tournament, Jadeja’s most notable performance came against Australia under-19s, against whom he took four wickets.  In the final against Pakistan, Jadeja’s spell of 3 for 16 played a huge part in restricting the arch-rivals to 125. It should have been an easy chase, but Anwar Ali’s prodigious swing bowling tore the Indian line-up apart, reducing them to 9 for 6 at one stage. In the top 7, Jadeja was the top-scorer with 6 and was the seventh to be dismissed with the score on 23. India folded for 71, handing the opposition an easy win.

But that tournament was enough to help Jadeja get into senior cricket. As soon as he hopped back to India, he was called up for the Deodhar Trophy along with his under-19 teammates Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara. In fact, Rohit and Jadeja made it through to the India A side for the Eurasia Cricket Series in Abu Dhabi. This was even before they had made their First-Class debuts.

Jadeja’s rise was quite swift as he was later picked for the Challenger Trophy 2006. His debut for Saurashtra then followed. In fact, he made his First-Class debut in a Duleep Trophy game and hit 53 in his very first innings. He made it through to the senior Saurashtra side in 2006-07, and though his first two seasons were moderate, it was clear that he was one for the future.

Under-19 World Cup victory and Rajasthan Royals

In early 2008, Jadeja was a part of the India under-19 squad at the World Cup in Malaysia. It was a very promising side led by the exuberant Virat Kohli. Being the all-rounder in the side, Jadeja had a key role to play in their fortunes. During this team’s victorious run, Jadeja’s bowling proved to be a major asset as he picked 10 wickets and restricted the flow of runs. In the final as well, he took two wickets as India ended up on the winning side. This was a major highlight in the early careers of both Jadeja and Kohli.

With all that promise, Jadeja was picked by the Rajasthan Royals, Shane Warne’s team of underdogs, in the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). It was a side where Jadeja came into his own, and was given a free hand by Warne to blossom into a useful all-rounder. He was nicknamed “rockstar” and was used more as a batsman. Interestingly, he bowled in only two games during Rajasthan’s victorious run. His batting was relied upon in the middle order.

Maiden call-up and early struggle in international cricket

Jadeja’s breakthrough season came in 2008-09. Showing great consistency in both departments, he was knocking the doors of the Indian team. In First-Class cricket, he scored 776 runs in 10 matches at an average of 59.59 with a best of 232 not out. With ball he took 45 wickets at 20.51. That spilled into List A cricket, where he scored 198 runs in four matches and took 6 wickets at 17.16. Those powerful numbers booked his spot in the ODI squad for the tour to Sri Lanka.

The early phase of Jadeja’s international career was no easy ride. He did start off with an unbeaten 60 on ODI debut, in a dead rubber. He was later picked for the ICC World T20 2009 in England with a lot of promise in store. But, it was a rude awakening for the young man. On the big stage, he crumbled under pressure in the crunch game. India needed to chase down England’s challenge of 154. With India in a spot, Jadeja was sent in at No. 4, ahead of Yuvraj Singh. The young man kept battling, unable to get the ball off the square. At that crucial juncture, he consumed 35 deliveries for only 25. He looked unprepared for the big challenge and it was tough for the young man. In contrast, his bowling had done much better on the day as he recorded a spell of 2 for 26.

Ravindra Jadeja was picked by CSK in 2011 IPL auction © Getty Images © Getty Images
Ravindra Jadeja was picked by CSK in 2012 IPL auction © IANS

That trend continued into Jadeja’s international career for some time. While he managed to perform decently with the ball, his batting was found wanting. With the bat, he looked slow and tentative. At No. 7, he needed to be the enforcer, but did not find it easy to make an impact. Having said that, he managed to script a few knocks that showed promise. During the home series against Australia in 2009, he scored a fifty in Guwahati after the top order had collapsed. However, during the same series, his lack of temperance cost India a game at Hyderabad, one during which Sachin Tendulkar hit that memorable 175. Jadeja scored quickly but was overzealous while running, and was ultimately dismissed. India’s chase unraveled in the last three overs, with Jadeja falling soon after Tendulkar’s departure to expose the tail.

The year 2010 was perhaps one of the toughest ones for Jadeja. He was banned from playing IPL 2010 due to a breach in player guidelines. Then during the ICC World T20 in the Caribbean, he was smashed around during the game against Australia, which only put more pressure on him. However, with the ICC World Cup 2011 coming up, India searched for the all-rounder. In the middle of 2010, Yuvraj Singh lost his spot, which had allowed Jadeja to establish himself at No. 7. But again his batting wasn’t up to mark and while his bowling was stable, it wasn’t penetrative. Eventually, he lost out to Yusuf Pathan ahead of the big event.

During the tour to England in 2011, Jadeja managed a comeback at The Oval and scored a crucial 78 when the top order had collapsed. That helped India put up a competitive 234, and Jadeja’s spell of two for 42 gave them a chance. Despite ending up on the losing side, he was awarded the Man of the Match. This Jadeja was different; he was confident, his batting looked decisive, not tentative, and he was giving the ball more air.

Jadeja retained his spot for the home series against England and West Indies, performing well with both bat and ball. In between the two series, he smashed 314 in a Ranji game against Orissa to increase his stakes. That early promise was materializing into performances.

Carrying all that confidence into the tour of Australia, Jadeja started off very well during the T20 International series. His brilliant fielding efforts helped India win the second T20, to record their first victory on the tour. Jadeja affected a brilliant run-out from point to dismiss Aaron Finch, which broke the back of the Australian batting. All those performances helped him win a $1 million contract with the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the IPL. Since then, Jadeja has been a perpetual fixture in the side.

But yet again, inconsistency came to the fore and the rest of the Australian tour was largely forgettable. He was axed again after the Asia Cup 2012. Here are his numbers from his debut to March 2012:

M

R

Ave

50s

HS

SR

W

Bowl. Ave

ODIs

58

860

28.66

5

78

78.61

57

38.42

‘Sir’ Ravindra Jadeja

Jadeja had been the butt of jokes on social media. The popular moniker of ‘Sir’ had been attached in condescension. He was targeted for his failures; while he would shine in one game, he tended to have long runs of inconsistency. Take the example of the IPL 2012: He took 5 for 16 against Deccan Chargers, but during the rest of the tournament, he took only seven wickets. All he needed was to get his act together and reproduce those dominating domestic performances at higher levels.

With a long stint away from the team, Jadeja could get his mind in the right spot. In November 2012, he smashed his second triple ton against Gujarat and little less than a month later, he hit 331 against Railways. In doing so, he joined an elite club of batsmen to have scored three First-Class triple centuries.

This time, Jadeja was called for the last Test against England, where he was handed his maiden cap. Retaining his spot for the ODI series against Pakistan and England, Jadeja put in consistent performances with the ball. And finally, things came together during the Kochi ODI, where he carted 61 not out to power India to victory.

The legend of ‘Sir’ only grew during the IPL 2013, when his CSK teammates took to Twitter to share hilarious jokes and parodies. During one of the games, Chennai needed 2 runs off the last ball with Jadeja on strike. Jadeja cut it to third-man and was caught, but had crossed over by the time the ball was taken. And, unknown to everyone, the umpire had signalled a no-ball. Out came the joke, “When you need two runs off one ball, Sir Jadeja wins it with one ball to spare.” This time, these jokes were more in praise than in condescension.

In 2013 Champion's Trophy Ravindra Jadeja was the highest wicket taker © Getty Images
In 2013 Champion’s Trophy Ravindra Jadeja was the highest wicket taker © Getty Images

That praise and adulation came after he had proved himself during the home Test series against Australia. Some said he did not deserve a spot, but his 25 wickets played a crucial role in India’s 4-0 triumph and backed Ravichandran Ashwin very well. In particular, he tormented Australian skipper Michael Clarke through the series.

The rise continued into the ICC Champions Trophy, where Jadeja was the leading wicket-taker and also bowled quite a few crucial spells. Against the West Indies, he got his maiden five wicket haul in ODIs. However, his most crucial performance came in the final, when his cameo got India a decent score in a rain-reduced 20-over encounter against England. And, then, handed the ball during the crucial penultimate over, Jadeja strangled England by dismissing Jos Buttler and building the pressure. India’s victory was the arrival of a new era and Jadeja was one of its beacons. By August, he had climbed to the No. 1 spot in ICC ODI Rankings for Bowlers. Here are Jadeja’s numbers since his comeback in late 2012 to the point of writing. One can see a marked improvement in all departments.

M

R

Ave

50s

HS

SR

W

Bowl. Ave

ODIs

51

831

43.73

5

87

91.72

77

27.76

Jadeja continues to unleash those performances from time to time and has become an invaluable asset to the Indian team. There have been many impact performances since his second coming. In New Zealand or example, he helped India tie a game; with eight needed of two, he smashed a six and took a single. In England, his crucial fifty in the Lord’s Test was instrumental in helping India put up a good score and then defend it.

Having said that, his Test numbers have to improve. He has done well at home, but has to perform well away. In Durban, he had taken a six-wicket haul, but his bowling form wasn’t up to the mark in New Zealand and England. Also, his batting hasn’t delivered consistently at No. 7. Also, his mercurial temper has got the better of him at times. In the West Indies in 2013, he had an on-field tiff with Suresh Raina. Later that year, he had a few run-ins with the Australians. And then came the ‘Pushgate‘ incident with James Anderson during the tour to England.

But, Jadeja is a clear match-winner in limited-overs internationals and is one of India’s most important players going into the ICC World Cup 2015. There is Akshar Patel, a cricketer in a similar mould, but Jadeja’s experience should help him Down Under. At 26, he has a long way ahead of him and he can truly become one of India’s best all-rounders across formats if he lives up to all his talent and potential. Perhaps the moniker of ‘Sir’ isn’t too bad after all.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)