Rags-to-riches stories are nothing new in cricket, especially in the sub-continent where the game is played in every nook and cranny. But for a man to climb from the depths of disappointment and ridicule to the pinnacle of the sport is a truly commendable job.
On Sunday, Ravindra Jadeja climbed to joint top spot in the International Cricket Council’s rankings for ODI bowlers, capping off a remarkable year that has seen him rise from being the butt of jokes cracked by cricket fans. In the interim, he has partnered Ravichandran Ashwin in conquering the Australians in Test cricket, helped India win four consecutive ODI series, including the ICC Champions Trophy, and justify the faith reposed in him by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Jadeja, level on 733 ratings points with West Indies’ Sunil Narine at the top of the tree, is the most successful bowler in this calendar year, with 38 wickets in 22 matches, and has become the first Indian in 17 years and fourth overall to top the bowlers’ chart. In the rankings applied retrospectively to ODIs held before their introduction in 1998, Anil Kumble was the No. 1 bowler in 1996, Kapil Dev in 1989 and Maninder Singh in 1987-88.
It’s ironic, though, that a man with three first-class triple centuries to his name has found his niche as a bowling all-rounder in international cricket. But not if you ask his Saurashtra Ranji Trophy coach Debu Mitra, who has always considered him a bowler first.
“I told him he was a spinner first and a batsman later. So he needed to work on his bowling as much as his batting. The first thing I ensured was that he bowled for a minimum of two hours at the nets, everyday. I have played with the likes of Dilip Doshi and Salim Durani and I know how much time someone like Doshi bhai would invest in bowling at the nets. And Jadeja did just that. Most importantly, he was a natural,” Mitra had told Mail Today.
A part of the same Under-19 World Cup-winning team as Virat Kohli (2008), Jadeja first grabbed the limelight as part of the inaugural Indian Premier League champions Rajasthan Royals, where he received high praise from his captain Shane Warne, who gave him the moniker ‘Rockstar’. In his first coming as an international cricketer, Jadeja was roundly criticised for being a little too green and unable to handle pressure scenarios, characterised by his meltdown with the bat in the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 in England that led to defending champions India’s exit.
Dhoni never stopped backing him, but Jadeja needed to work on his game, so the selectors dropped him. He sweated it out, succeeded in the 2011-12 domestic season, which included two triple hundreds and a glut of wickets, and forced his way back into the reckoning as a new man.
For the former soldier’s son from Jamnagar, life hasn’t been a bed of roses. But with the oodles of confidence he has been blessed with, Jadeja has turned things around and made sure that all the ‘Sir Jadeja’ sarcasm on social media has actually been replaced by a genuine admiration of cricket fans.
Meanwhile, Amit Mishra and Jaydev Unadkat have made giant leaps after their good performances against Zimbabwe. Mishra, who took a world record- equalling 18 wickets, jumped 47 places to 32nd, while Unadkat moved up 139 places to 95th.
Among the batsmen, Virat Kohli lost a spot to Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara, who is now third behind South African duo Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers. M.S Dhoni is seventh, Suresh Raina 17th and Shikhar Dhawan has climbed to 23rd, up 16 spots.
By virtue of their 5- 0 victory, India have gained a rating point and have extended their lead over Australia to nine points.