Lost amid the flurry of the Sir Ravindra Jadeja social media storm soon after his success in the home-series against Australia, was how the same set had ridiculed him even at the start of the series.
In Chennai, he lost his off-stump to a James Pattinson delivery after failing to read the line and attempting an ill-advised leave.
The photo of Radeja, a silhouetted bat rising over his helmet, looking back at the shattered stumps made him the butt of all jokes. A nasty meme had that photo next to a picture of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The text on top read the Art of Living. Next to Jadeja it read the Art of Leaving.
By the end of the series, which he closed out with a man-of-the-match performance in Delhi, he was being worshipped. If the social media network was superfluous, the mainstream media has been even more fickle, lauded one day, slaughtered the next.
In the lead up to the event, it was revealed that he was among players who were managed by Rhiti Sports, in which, it emerged, India skipper MS Dhoni had an owner’s share. In certain quarters questions were asked about his spot in side.
Jadeja responded with the sort of performance that has led many to label him the decisive x-factor to India’s hopes. It’s the kind of response that has become customary when talking about him.
His first coach Mahendra Singh Chauhan once told this correspondent of the strong odds he overcame: "He lost his mother when he was 17. It was the most testing period of his life. I saw him almost give up hope. Through much persuasion from me and his family members, he came back to the field.”
His first contribution on Thursday came with the bat. Coming in at number 7, he took time to settle in. With Dhoni, at the other end the run-rate was healthy. When Dhoni fell in the 47th over, India were some distance from comfort. Jadeja’s 29-ball 47 gave the final push.
His next game-changing contribution came on the field. After losing two quick wickets, Robin Peterson and AB de Villiers took SA to 155-2 near the mid-way mark.
Brilliant fielding by Jadeja, then turned the match on its head. Peterson drove the ball to midwicket, Jadeja dove to his left, threw the ball safely into Dhoni’s gloves. The match swung.
Jadeja then capped off the performance with a spell of incisive of left-arm spin. He trapped JP Duminy plumb leg-before. South Africa challenged the call, but with each team only getting one review, it was a wasted DRS review.
He cleaned up tailender Lonwabo Tsotsobe’s off-stump, and the celebrations began.