ravindra jadeja
Ravindra Jadeja celebrates after dismissing Mushfiqur Rahim (AFP Photo)

Playing in his first ODI in 14 months, Ravindra Jadeja looked determined to prove himself when he took field against Bangladesh in the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup 2018 on Friday. He ran through their middle-order, finishing with figures of 4/29 from 10 overs.

For his performance, Jadeja was chosen as the man-of-the-match as India put in a clinical performance to beat Bangladesh by seven wickets. On the other hands, the wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who have become limited-overs regulars, went wicketless.

“I always wanted to make a mark, and whenever I get the chance, I aim to play to my potential and do my best,” Jadeja said at the post match presentation.”That finally happened today and I’m very happy. Kuldeep and Chahal were putting pressure on the batsmen and I was getting the wickets. I need to play my role in every match and look forward to doing well against Pakistan and the other crucial matches.”

14 months is a long time. Jadeja has has a rough idea of the days gone by since he last donned India jersey in ODIs. The seeds of his comeback were sown in England when he put up an all-round show in the fifth and final Test at The Oval after watching the first four matches from the sidelines.

As luck would have it, Axar Patel injured himself while fielding against Pakistan on Tuesday and Jadeja was asked to fly to Dubai on a short-notice to link up with the India squad on Thursday. A day later, he was named in India’s playing XI.

“This has been the longest I have waited for a comeback. Almost 480-day gap. I will remember this forever,” Jadeja later said while addressing a press conference. “I gained the confidence [to perform well today] from my last game against England. I was playing in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and wasn’t aware of what was going on [at the Asia Cup]. A day before I got call from selectors to be ready to go to Dubai. I was very happy.”

Was it being on the sidelines all this while, Jadeja said, “I was playing Test cricket. I missed last two-three away series. I was only motivating myself. And thinking about what I could control, how I can improve my game in away conditions. Never thought about results. When I got a chance in England, I did well. Here unfortunately Axar got injured and I got the chance and I did well here too.

Even though Jadeja is elated with his match-winning effort, he’s taking one series at a time and is not even entertaining the idea of making it to the ICC World Cup 2019 squad. “There’s some time for the World Cup. There are games to be played in between. Whenever I get the opportunity, I will have to perform like today. It’s early to be thinking about it. My focus is this series so that I benefit in the upcoming series. I have to prove nobody but to myself. I aim is to sharpen my skills. No need to show anyone what I can do. I only challenge myself how much better I can do for India,” the 29-year-old said.

Of his four dismissals on Friday, the one that caught attention was that of Shakib Al Hasan. The Bangladeshi allrounder had clattered two successive boundaries off Jadeja when a field change brought India immediate success. Having spotted what Shakib was doing, India stationed a fielder at square leg and off the very next delivery, the left-hander was caught at the spot while attempting a sweep.

“I knew Shakib was looking to play over midwicket. I was speaking to Rohit [Sharma] about how we can take a deep midwicket, deep long-on and keep the square leg up. And luckily I bowled just outside the off stump. I knew he will go for the sweep,” Jadeja explained.

India will face Pakistan for the second time in the tournament on Sunday and Jadeja expects it to be a close contest. “India-Pakistan or India against any country, playing for the country is always a matter of pride. India-Pakistan is a contest that everyone gets excited about. Hopefully it will be an interesting game,” he said.