As the hammer went down at the Indian Premier League auction on Saturday morning, life came full circle for Ravindra Jadeja. A day after he put in a Man-of-the-Match performance to give India their first overseas win in any format after 16 games, the all-rounder became the most expensive player among those sold for season five of the lucrative Twenty20 league.
Jadeja is unlikely to indulge in any wild celebrations, however. At 23, the youngster has already experienced enough highs and lows in his career to know how quickly fortunes can change.
The spotlight shone rather early when, at just 19, Jadeja played a significant role when the unfancied Rajasthan Royals emerged as the surprise winners of the first edition of the IPL. A ringing endorsement came from his skipper Shane Warne, who termed the Saurashtra player a “superstar in the making.” There was enough reason to believe the Australian legend’s claim, as Jadeja had only months earlier displayed his promise as a part of the 2008 Under-19 World Cup-winning Indian side.
When he followed it up with 739 runs and 42 wickets in nine matches for Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy, finishing as the joint leading wicket-taker and sixth-highest run-scorer, the national selectors took notice as well. Jadeja earned his maiden call-up to India’s limited-overs side for the tour of Sri Lanka, scoring an unbeaten half-century in a losing cause on debut. Meanwhile, he performed even better for Rajasthan in the second season in 2009, top-scoring for the side with 295 runs in 13 matches while conceding less than 6.5 runs per over. For an Indian team that has struggled to fill the all-rounder’s spot since Kapil Dev, his skills in all three departments of the game – useful batting down the order, economical left-arm spin bowling and energetic fielding – offered hope.
A year later, though, it all came crashing down, as Jadeja found himself banned for a year from the very tournament in which he had first made his name, for trying to negotiate terms with another franchise while still under contract with Rajasthan. The left-armer was still selected for the 2010 World Twenty20, but a miserable return of just 9 runs and 2 wickets in four matches – in addition to his involvement in a brawl at a St. Lucia pub – soon saw him lose his place in the side to Yusuf Pathan.
Many a promising youngster has fallen by the wayside after such setbacks in Indian cricket, but Jadeja took the lessons to heart, responding with sheer grit, determination and hard work. There were solid performances for Saurashtra and later Kochi Tuskers Kerala, and when he finally returned to the ODI side after an injury jinx hit India in England last year, the much-improved all-rounder was one of the few bright spots for the visitors on a bleak tour.
Though still not a dead cert for the national side, Jadeja raised his stock even further by bringing cheer on another abject overseas tour in Australia. His two crucial run-outs and miserly bowling (he conceded just 5.33 runs in 3 overs) gave India a much-needed win in the second T20 International on Friday, and a day later he became only the fifth player in the IPL to cross the maximum price barrier.
This time, the backing has come from India captain MS Dhoni – also the skipper of the Chennai Super Kings franchise that has bought him – who admitted that Jadeja “looks more complete right now.” He also looks more assured – all his performances on return have come in difficult circumstances, but the patient all-rounder has displayed a composure, fortitude and maturity that is perhaps the result of lessons learnt from an early struggle few would have foreseen.
It’s been a long road back, but the perseverance is finally paying off for Ravindra Jadeja... And its value? $2 million.