IPL 2022: Rockstar, Sir, Captain — Ravindra Jadeja's rise to top

All eyes on Jadeja, the skipper, as holders Chennai take on Kolkata in the IPL opener today
CSK all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja (Photo | PTI)
CSK all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja (Photo | PTI)

CHENNAI: In 2013 as Ravindra Jadeja shouldered his arms to James Pattinson’s delivery and lost his off-stump, one could hear giggles ringing aloud at Chepauk. These were still the early days of Jadeja and the MA Chidambaram Stadium hadn’t really seen much of the all-rounder, who had joined the Chennai Super Kings for the 2012 season.

In a team that had MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Mike Hussey, Dwayne Bravo, R Ashwin, Faf du Plessis, and Doug Bollinger, Jadeja didn’t really walk into whistles every time he stepped out to bat.

For a venue that usually welcomes those who wear the yellow jersey with arms spread wide open, there was a bit of reluctance towards Jadeja. It was the period where despite scoring three triple centuries in Ranji Trophy, people were yet to take his batting seriously.

Adding to it was the series of tweets from Dhoni, in which the tag “Sir” was prefixed before Jadeja more as a troll quotient than anything. With Thala himself making fun of Jadeja, it was quite natural that the rest of his kingdom joined in too.

But, it was in total contrast to what was going on in the franchise the year before. Ahead of the 2012 auction, Dhoni’s wish-list had only one player: Ravindra Jadeja. And the franchise would spend Rs 9.8 crore to acquire his services.

Ten years later, here he is as Dhoni’s successor. And just like 2013, not everyone is convinced about the Chosen One. There are reasons for it because at no stage of his career has Jadeja captained any side. And despite being part of the national team set up since 2009 and being an all-format regular, the all-rounder has never been part of the leadership group. So, to say that Chennai has punted with Jadeja would be a massive understatement.

As reported by this daily, although Jadeja was formally anointed to the throne only on Thursday, he has been preparing for the role since at least December. For a franchise that puts a lot of emphasis on continuity, that they went with a player who is familiar to their style of operation isn’t surprising. And that they have left it to the outgoing captain to decide on the successor too doesn’t raise eyebrows as well for everyone knows the sort of authority that Dhoni enjoys at Chennai Super Kings.

But all said and done, this is a major punt that the franchise has taken. Like it was in 2012, there is a perception that Jadeja isn’t really a captaincy material. Will he be cool like Dhoni or aggressive, in-your-face like Virat Kohli or astute like Rohit Sharma? Nobody knows it. Because nobody has seen him captain.

“He is someone who is going to give players the space and freedom. He is that sort of player who tries to keep everything simple,” R Sridhar, who was the fielding coach of the Indian team from 2014-2021 says. “There is a newfound confidence in him, especially the way he has transformed himself as a batter over the last three years is there to see,” he added.

There is this trait in Jadeja, where he likes proving others wrong. If everyone wanted him to be dismissed in the 2009 T20 World Cup fixture against England, 10 years later, everyone wanted him to go the distance in the 2019 World Cup semifinals against New Zealand.

From being called a bits and pieces player, he has become a genuinely world-class all-rounder who is good enough to keep the best spinner in the team warm the bench in Tests. From being called a spinner, who can bag wickets only on dustbowls, he has been ranked No 1 Test bowler in the world.

As he prepares to lead CSK in the IPL, there are questions if he is the right choice. Over to Jadeja to change the perception.

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