Let's talk about Ravindra Jadeja
The joker of Indian cricket is now one of India's match winners.
No one likes being cornered, being gaped at, being doubted, no one ever likes being mocked at!
Mockery is derogatory, it touches everything, it corrodes every virtue, it leaves a trail of destruction in its wake. No one knows what to do, no one wants to stand up and do anything about it.
And now, let us talk about Ravindra Jadeja!
Back in 2008, when a bunch of young free spirited Indian boys danced, abused, and won their way to the Under-19 World Cup, the entire nation started drooling over the captain, Virat Kohli. How can India not treat Kohli like a superstar; he was a batsman, he was brash, he scored runs, he won matches, and for the batting-amorous Indian masses, the next big hope had just surfaced.
In the din, amidst the raucous cheering, a fragile young man from Gujarat did not allow himself to be lost. He was very much part of the psyche of the Indian public, although they never spoke too much about him. And then, under Shane Warne, he won Rajasthan Royals a tight chase against Mumbai Indians. Warne called him 'rockstar' and you know you are flashy and very visible if Warne decides to call you that and you know there is some spark when Warne speaks highly of you.
Cricket was never a pass time, it was always a way to take time off the tough family and the strict rules. He never cared for what ifs, and just took a deep breath to make decisions.
He could bowl decent deliveries, he could churn out just enough runs, and being part of the modern breed, he could most definitely field.
India's affection for all-rounders can only be compared to a certain president's love for building walls. Always waiting for an opportunity to pounce on remotely anything which looks like a decent prospect to hammer home the advantage.
MS Dhoni likes good fielders, he wanted Jadeja in the side, because apart from his exploits on the field, he could give you a few overs and could bat a bit.
Now there is this thing with Dhoni, if he believes in a player, he will make sure he throws all his weight behind him. He never dies wandering, does Dhoni, and so he promoted his newest hunch as India were chasing down a target of 154 in a World T20 match against West Indies. This was intense pressure, even the flashy Jadeja was not prepared for this, he stalled, melted, withered and walked away for a painful 25 off 35.
People everywhere looked at each other, hurled abuses, and agreed on the fact that Indian cricket had got its new desperado.
And then 2010 happened; India were in a battle for survival in another World T20 against Australia. Jadeja was still Dhoni's hunch, he gave him the ball against a marauding Shane Watson and David Warner. In 2 overs, he bled 38 runs. Even Dhoni had had enough!
Sandwiched in between all this, Jadeja was approached by Mumbai Indians and the naive young man responded, thus breaching the league rules. He was banned for a season!
The villain had become a joker, the public love them both; Jadeja was an amalgamation of 'em all!
He could have lost it, the mockery surely would have taken a toll on him, he was lost, he had to be, but he believed.
There is this thing about being mocked at, if you shield yourself from all the naysayers and decide to march on, oblivious of their rants, you might even surprise yourself!
He went back to the toils of Domestic cricket and bowled, batted, fielded, away from the glaring cameras, away from all the negativity, away from all the trolls.
And he played, he scored, he took wickets, he won matches. Not T20, it was in whites, 4-day cricket was where this 'modern young man' found solace.
India were hammered by England in the home series in 2012. They were 2-1 down going into the fourth Test match in Nagpur when Yuvraj broke down and the selectors decided to rope in Jadeja.
This was a delicious piece of news for all those pundits out there who had missed their mirth for the past 15 months.
A sedate debut for Jadeja was enough to convince the selectors to retain him for the Australia series. Redemption followed, the nincompoop accounted for the Australian captain Michael Clarke 5 times during that series as India went on to smash the tourists 4-0.
He was mocked and yet he rose, he was now unstoppable!
Ashwin was running through oppositions in home conditions, but bereft of any assistance on overseas surfaces, he lost his zip, his wicket-taking abilities deserted him.
Dhoni decided to bench him and instilled all his faith on Jadeja, yes the discarded, tainted soul of Indian cricket was the nation's leading spin bowler.
And now let's praise Ravindra Jadeja!
In the 2015-16 Ranji season, the left armer who only bowls 'darts and then prays for results' picked up 6 consecutive 5-wicket hauls on spin friendly surfaces of Saurashtra. Bang, yes here is, the flashy bits and pieces cricketer now slicing through oppositions in first class cricket.
And then South Africa came, pitches were dust bowls, Jadeja had seen them all. He gripped the ball in his hand and hurled the round thing at the South Africans. It was grenades for those batters who forgot all about batting as the Saurashtra all-rounder bucketed 23 wickets at an average of 10.82.
He has 3 triple centuries to his name in first class cricket, numbers which should evoke pride, but numbers which have only bestowed ignominy on Jadeja. No one takes his batting numbers seriously, not unless Lord's 2014 happened.
On a green pitch, Ajinkya Rahane entered the honours board and even after India's inspired bowling performances, the match was still up for grabs when Jadeja sauntered onto the field and smashed 68 in 57 balls. Yes, and the sword wielding celebration was bared out in front of the world.
He ended the match by sprinting forward towards the ball on his follow through, picked it up and smashed the stumps at the striker's end. Game, set, match, India.
Game, set, match, Jadeja!
Let's have patience with Jadeja!
Numbers do not lie, it did not when he froze in 2009, when he bled in 2010, when he melted all over the place during the initial days!
So it should matter all the more now!
Since 2015, he has picked up 66 wickets in 13 matches, conceded runs at an economy rate of 2.15. This frugal rate is the best in the world, and as he walked away with another Man of the Match award after India won the 2nd Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo, his MoM numbers now stand at 3.
He is India's premier Test bowler, he is captain Kohli's go-to bowler, he is the team's glue, he is an exemplification of how and when to respond to mockery.
“Nobody can hurt me without my permission,” a certain fellow Gujarati Mahatma Gandhi had said and in many ways Jadeja is an embodiment of these words.
He was jolted and yet he never allowed people to hurt him and the once doomsday predictors are cheering along with his every sword-wielding, with his every tight, effective Test match spells, with his every prancing movement on the field, they are no longer mocking Ravindra Jadeja, they are no longer questioning Ravindra Jadeja.
He enjoys his life, he loves his horses, he is proud of his 'Rajput' lineage, it all reflects on the cricket field. He still plays it to escape their clutches of modernity and the never ending intrusion!
Cricket is a sport, Jadeja just plays it.