Gone are the days when Ravindra Jadeja was the subject of online ridicule, with the prefix 'Sir' being attached to his name in jest more often than not due to his continuous presence in the national side despite his inconsistency.
It is the year 2017, and Jadeja is one of the hottest commodities in Indian cricket: An all-rounder blessed with amazing accuracy, the gift of beating batsmen with variations in pace, quite the handy bat down the order as well as one of the best fielders in the team. Add a quirky facial hairstyle, as well as a couple of candid (albeit hilarious) press conferences, and you have a complete entertainer of a cricketer. Not to mention, an asset to the national team.
Having dealt with financial struggles during his childhood before making it big in the world of cricket, Jadeja sent ripples across the cricketing sphere in the country when he hit three triple centuries in the Ranji Trophy, more than any other batsman has across formats in the cricket-mad South Asian nation. Those however, weren't quite the testament to his batting skills as they were of the flatness of the pitches that he scored on.
Jadeja, or 'Jaddu' as he is popularly known these days, has charted a meteoric rise in Test cricket in the last two years. It was on the rank turners during the four-Test Freedom Trophy against South Africa, that he made his first foray into the quest of cementing a spot in the national Test side. It was also with this series that the Jadeja-Ravichandran Ashwin partnership would gain permanence.
Since then, Jadeja has collected 97 wickets accompanied by impressive numbers — average and economy of 19.76 and 2.15 respectively. From being treated as the perfect foil to Ashwin after the New Zealand Tests to zooming ahead of him in the wicket-takers' charts in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy a few months later, Jadeja has come a long way. Let us not forget his personal best score of 90 that came in the Mohali Test in the England series, in which he could have brought up his maiden Test century had it not been for a rash stroke.
One of the left-arm spinner's most appreciated abilities was that of bowling excruciatingly long spells at the centre in energy-sapping heat, persisting with an attacking line throughout the spell before eventually tiring the batsman out to lead to his dismissal. It was another thing that the batsmen hardly had the time to get settled before his delivery stride, such was the rapidity of his overs (as a result making the lives of online ball-by-ball commentators a living hell).
However, when looking at the limited-overs side of things, he, as well as Ashwin, has mostly been rested from the bilateral ODI and T20I engagements in order to give him some rest and stay fit for the five-day format. The three-match ODI series against England was the only one that Jadeja was part of, and he wasn't quite among the wickets this time as compared to the likes of Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah.
In the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which concluded on Sunday with Mumbai Indians lifting the trophy for the third time, Jadeja chose not to back out unlike some of his India colleagues fatigued by the marathon Test season, and turned up in Gujarat Lions' colours for its second season. While his commitment was indeed commendable, his form in the tournament wasn't quite so. His agility on the field, which was highlighted in the run-outs that he effected in the home clash against Mumbai Indians, was the only aspect of his worth noting from the tournament. His lack of form might have had some impact on the Lions, as they finished second from bottom.
Jadeja's first big appearance was in the ICC World T20 in the Caribbean in 2010, in which his fortunes were hardly any better than that of his team, where India crashed out in the Super 8s stage. He wasn't picked in the squad for the 2012 event in Sri Lanka and his luck hardly improved in the subsequent edition two years later.
He was the toast of the tournament with the ball the last time the 'Mini World Cup' was played — in 2013 that is. The all-rounder bagged a haul of 12 wickets at a stupendous average and economy of 12.83 and 3.75 respectively. In India's victorious campaign that was driven by the youngsters in the side, including the efforts of Shikhar Dhawan, Jadeja got his first moment of hurrah, more so away from the comfort of home surfaces.
The 2015 World Cup and the 2016 World T20 weren't as happy events for him as the Champions Trophy, with him grabbing nine and four wickets in the respective tournaments. The World T20 was all the more disappointing, both for him as well as for Ashwin, as they were not to be seen anywhere in the top 20 despite the tournament being staged at home.
Prospect for Champions Trophy 2017
Despite the lack of form in the IPL, Jadeja still forms the core of the squad that reached England on Thursday. Jadeja will bank both on his form throughout the bygone season, as well as during his last appearance in the mega event, for inspiration. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether it comes down to a toss-up between him and Ashwin as per requirement of the conditions. If given the go-ahead, Jadeja could prove as potent as he always has.
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