x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

India all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja still abused by cricket fans but not for long

He has done well as a batsman, bowler and fielder, has not been forgiven for one of India's defeats at the World Twenty20 in 2009.

It is not Ravindra Jadeja's fault that he was given a big-money offer to play for Chennai Super Kings. Noah Seelam / AFP
It is not Ravindra Jadeja's fault that he was given a big-money offer to play for Chennai Super Kings. Noah Seelam / AFP

It happened nearly 12 years ago. Steve Waugh's Australians had lost an epic Test series after Indian wins at Kolkata and Chennai.

The caravan had moved on to Bangalore and the start of the one-day series. Having halted a winning streak of 16 games in the Test arena, India proceeded to end a run of 10 consecutive Australian one-day victories.

The man of the match was a relative unknown, someone whose name the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack did not even spell properly. Virender Sehwag scored 58 off 54 balls and took the wickets of Matthew Hayden, Waugh and Damien Martyn, but the report referred to him as "Shewag".

A performance of that nature, against a team of that calibre, raised some unrealistic expectations about India having stumbled on an all-rounder. The desperation was understandable. Kapil Dev, who took 253 wickets, captained the team to a World Cup (1983) and averaged nearly 24 with the bat had retired seven years earlier.

Ravi Shastri, who was a stalwart of the one-day side for a decade, had gone even earlier, laid low by a knee injury.

For a brief while, Manoj Prabhakar had shouldered the all-rounder burden, taking 157 wickets and scoring two centuries. But with his exit, the dual role was left to those who were noticeably superior in one skill – Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Robin Singh.

It quickly became apparent that Sehwag too was cut from that cloth. He has 96 one-day wickets, but it is not for those that he will be remembered. Irfan Pathan threatened to be "the one" for a while, but over the past half decade, his has been an itinerant existence in the team.

This background is necessary to understand the treatment of Ravindra Jadeja. He averages more with the bat (29.33) than Kapil, Shastri, Prabhakar and Pathan. The bowling average of 35.25 is better than Shastri, and he takes wickets more often than Kapil did. By Indian standards, he is an exceptional fielder as well.

Jadeja did not make the squad that won India the 50-over World Cup in 2011. Since his return to the side, he has averaged 27 with the bat while scoring at a rate of 85 runs every 100 balls. He has also become more penetrative with the ball, delivering telling spells against Pakistan and England (twice) in the last month alone.

Yet, no cricketer has been more ridiculed or abused. If you follow the average Twitter conversation, you would think that he was some chump who had been foisted on the side while Sir Garfield Sobers and Keith Miller sat out. Seldom is there any recognition that Jadeja is as good as it gets for Indian cricket at the moment.

It is not his fault that Chennai Super Kings paid US$2 million (Dh7.35m) for his services at an Indian Premier League auction.

This season, he became one of the few in history to score a third triple-century in first-class cricket. The pitches may have been placid, but it is not as though other batsmen had been scoring that heavily.

The irrational disparagement of Jadeja dates back to the World Twenty20 in England in 2009. With India needing to beat England to stay alive in the competition, Jadeja was sent out at No 4 as the team chased a modest 154 for victory.

While Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan, three men eminently capable of muscling the ball over the rope, waited in the dressing room, Jadeja scratched around 35 balls for 25. He struck just one four. India lost by three runs.

Instead of blaming the team management for a monumental error, those that should have known better trained their ire on a 20 year old. And no matter what he has done since, that evening seems to colour perceptions of Jadeja. He is no Sobers, but he is not half as bad as he is sometimes made out to be. Even the naysayers will eventually have to accept that.


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