We identified him as a special talent - Shane Warne
While Sourav Ganguly's astute captaincy has had the headline writers in a tizzy, one Ravindra Jadeja - the most expensive buy in this year's IPL auction - is trying hard to make the world believe he was worth it.
Chennai Super Kings paid $2 million (or more) for the all-rounder from Saurashtra. Narayanaswamy Srinivasan and co got him for an undisclosed sum after a tie with Deccan Chargers - the very side Ravindra destroyed on Saturday with a superb all-round performance. After a blazing cameo of 48 runs in 29 balls, the left-hander came back to haunt the home team - claiming five wickets for 16 runs from his quota of four overs.
Jadeja lives up to price tag as Chennai thrash Deccan
"I wanted to please my mom and my family", said Jadeja. Modest!
After a season of extraordinary development, which has taken even his critics by surprise, Ravindra Jadeja has established himself as the most exciting young all-rounder in Indian cricket today. So it is with some incredulity that you pay attention to how it was nearly over for him before it began.
After earning the name 'Rockstar' by Shane Warne in 2009, Jadeja has seen plenty of ups-and-downs in cricketing career. Post some useful knocks for Saurashtra, Rajasthan Royals got hold of his services in 2008. However after two seasons, he was struggling to find a place in any franchise. In 2010, the governing council of Indian Premier League imposed a one-year ban on Ravindra for non-adherence to the players' guidelines.
He was also dropped for India's tour of South Africa and subsequently ignored for the World Cup.
However, the Saurashtra all-rounder fought hard to save his cricket future - putting in an extra effort at India's domestic level. In Arsene Wenger's words, "It can be an advantage to be smaller and weaker when you are developing - it forces you to learn how to protect the ball better, how to use your body, how to wriggle out of tight spaces. Those who develop too quickly often a great physical advantage of their peers, and advantage that evaporates when they enter the adult game."
After a year-long away, Jadeja came out strongly for the now disbanded Kochi Tuskers Kerela in IPL 4 - scoring 283 runs and taking eight valuable wickets in 14 matches. At the domestic level, he scored a marathon 314 against Orissa - going past Cheteshwar Pujara's 302 - for a highest-ever score by a Saurashtra batsman in the Ranji Trophy. Cricketers don't score 300 everyday.
"It was a chanceless innings. In a total of 545, Ravindra has scored 314, so you can well imagine how well he batted - and that too in a four-dayer soon after coming from an ODI series. How many cricketers have scored a triple in an away-game in Ranji Trophy? He is undoubtedly one of the finest all-rounders India have at the moment. And by all-rounder, I mean bowling, batting and fielding - a natural in all the three departments," his coach Debu Mitra quipped.
Jadeja's strong exhibition for Tuskers and impressive form in Buchi Babu competition paved way for his return to the Indian squad, again. In 58 matches, the 23-year old has accumulated 860 runs with a healthy strike-rate of 78.61. Brilliant in the field, Jadeja also contributed with the ball with 57 wickets to his name. For someone who has been in and out of the team on a regular basis - at a young age - records will sound otherwise.
Though he is yet to play a Test match for his country, the young man - with plenty of dynamism - could be moulded into an all-rounder India's been looking for. But that would largely depend on the BCCI as to how desperate they are to repair the damages caused in England, Australia and most recently Asia Cup.
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Coming back to Jadeja. Some may contend he hasn't played enough to merit a place in the ODI squad but he has got all the necessary weapons to spring a few surprises. He was the chief contributor to India's revival Down Under when the tourists achieved a convincing eight-wicket win over Australia in the second Twenty20 and leveled the series. It was India's first victory on the tour after losing the opening T20 by 31 runs and receiving a 4-0 thrashing in the Test series. The home team were foxed by India's brilliant fielding, the pick of which came from Ravindra Jadeja (MOM). He executed two run outs and got the crucial wicket of David Hussey when Australians were rebuilding after a shaky start.
The very next day - on February 4 - the youngster landed a $ 2 million IPL jackpot. He has now joined the elite league which consists of colleagues Gautam Gambhir, Yusuf Pathan, Robin Uthappa and Rohit Sharma in the $2-million-a-season bracket . And now he has got off to a good start in this years money-spinning Twenty20 league.
For now, he is one of Mahendra Singh Dhoni's most trusted lieutenants in limited-over matches - preferred over the Pathan brothers. No wonder Chennai drained their season five purse for the all-rounder. Would you pay $2 million for him?