He was an integral part of India’s ODI set-up and even captained the team in 13 of the 196 matches he played. Things were looking bright until the BCCI suspended Ajay Jadeja in 2000 for being involved in dealings with bookies. Though he got the ban overturned and played domestic cricket afterwards, the scar remains. Jadeja revealed that in a chat with HT on Wednesday. Excerpts:
Do you regret the way things panned out in your cricket career?
Regret may not be the most appropriate word to describe how I feel but deeper down, a part of me is unhappy with what happened. It’s definitely not something that I thought would happen and the bad feeling remains. It’s difficult to wish it away.
Did the court ruling make you feel vindicated?
Sure. That’s what I was fighting for, for three-and-a-half years. There was no money at stake, very little chance of winning back my place in the Indian team. It was a question of making sure that my name was cleared. What people on the street think about me was more important than what someone in the BCCI thought.
How does it feel to have scored 93 in an ODI and to have never played again?
I don’t think it (exclusion) had anything to do with runs or form. It took me three-and-a-half years to get cleared. I knew that after such a long time, the runs wouldn’t count. The team had moved on and the sport had become different. I was happy to play Ranji.
Do you think the team’s mindset has changed?
More than mindset, it’s about talent. During my days, Tendulkar was a far superior player to anyone else. Now you have batsmen in the ODI team who score faster than him and consistently too, like Sehwag, Gambhir and Yuvraj. Probably Raina is the only one scoring slower than Tendulkar. This next generation of players is always going to be smarter.
What’s your most memorable moment from cricket?
The day I walked into the ground in Brisbane against Australia (in a 1992 World Cup game). That thought still gives me goose bumps... I was walking onto the field with the likes of Kapil, Srikkanth, Manjrekar. Performances like the 25-ball 45 against Pakistan in the 1996 World Cup can be replicated, but not such a moment.