It was one of those glitzy Indian Premier League nights last April when Rajasthan Royals were in the middle of their amazing winning streak. That was also the time when Ravindra Jadeja,after the under-19 World Cup triumph,was getting a first-hand feel of international stardom. Such was the high that the 20-year-old,notwithstanding his personal failure in that particular game,was enjoying the teams triumphant mood. That was when he heard a familiar voice.
He quickly turned back since he was being referred to as Bapu the colloquial title that warriors and royalties have enjoyed in Jadejas home town Jamnagar. The young left-armer smiled as the voice belonged to another Bapu from Jamnagar with the same second name: Ajay Jadeja. The senior Jadeja,in Jaipur as a commentator,gave a very basic advice to the youngster. If you want to get noticed and play for India,try to be more consistent. People dont remember just one good knock, said the former India captain.
On a day when he made it to Indias ODI squad for the Sri Lanka tour,Ravindra remembers the conversation and tries to explain how those simple words struck a chord. He was born in Jamnagar,he speaks Gujarati in the same dialect as I do and he is a Jadeja. Somehow his words stayed in mind, he says.
Ravindras consistency has been the talking point all through the season. His 739 runs placed him at No. 6 on the batting charts after the Ranji season while his 42 wickets made him the highest wicket-taker. He goes on to explain that the national call hasnt just excited him but it also means a lot for Jamnagar,a place that boasts of producing Indias first international superstar,KS Ranjitsinhji,as well as a host of other luminaries including Duleepsinhji,Vinoo Mankad and the Mr. Popular of 60s and 70s,Salim Durrani. But later,even though Saurashtra players Dhiraj Parsana and Karsan Ghavri made it to the India team,Jamnagar had just Ajay Jadejas birth certificate to harp on since he moved northwards early in his career.
But,as Ravindra tells you,after a long time the mood at the Ajitsinh Pavilion the sporting facility that Ranjisinhji built in Jamnagar in 1908 that has still survived is again upbeat. Since it (Ajitsinh Pavilion) hadnt produced an international cricketer for a long time,I can understand the excitement there, he says.
Ravindra happens to be among the hundreds who train at the historic cricketing facility,but there havent been many quality cricketers. There are four Ranji players who train with me. But to get used to international quality bowling I bat on a cement track with a synthetic ball. That way I get a feel of the pace I face when I am playing better bowlers, he says.
His commitment to consistency hasnt gone unnoticed by those around him. Early in the season,he got out once pulling the ball and since then,the sight of him working on the short ball became a common sight at Saurashtras net session. After the team nets used to get over,I used to ask someone to give me throw downs as I didnt want to get out pulling the ball. Shitanshu Kotak used to joke in the dressing room that I have hit 70,000 pull shots at net this season, Ravindra says.
Battling the lows
For all the highs during the seasons,though,he also had a couple of lows. He wasnt included in the Challengers Trophy last year and reports suggested that selectors got confused between Ravindra Sinh Jadeja and Ravi Inder Singh and picked the Punjab batsman over the Saurashtra all-rounder. Later in the year,he failed to make it to the list of BCCI contracted players.
But with the word consistency etched in mind,these off-field setbacks didnt matter. And,eventually,those 739 runs and 42 wickets were simply too much to keep the Jamnagar boy out.