Had India not lost to the West Indies in the semifinals, Ravindra Jadeja would have been in the blue jersey playing at the Eden Gardens on April 3 in front of 66,000 fans --- and more than a billion watching around the world.
But a couple of days after India’s exit --- the day the World T20 final was being played --- the versatile cricketer was at Jamanagar’s Ajisinh Pavilion ground turning out for local team, Jamnagar District, in the Bahadurbhai Kothari Cup final.
Be it a major playing venue or a relatively unknown centre, Jadeja is at ease everywhere. No wonder then that he commands tremendous following in his home state.
“A day after playing in the World T20 semifinal in Mumbai, he reached Rajkot and was at the ground in the morning for the final. He scored 137, took three wickets and effected two run-outs to bag the Man-of-the-Match award against Celebration Eleven. A crowd of 10,000 thronged the stadium to cheer him. The game ended at 4.30 pm and the presentation ceremony lasted another hour but Jadeja remained with the players till 8 pm, and so did the crowd,” says his childhood coach, Mahendrasinh.
On Thursday, there were some big names on show here on the eve of the first IPL game at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium but it was Jadeja’s name that drew the loudest cheer. “There’s no doubt who’s the most popular player here. He is a natural and has stayed rooted,” says his coach.
A giant poster of Jadeja in Gujarat Lions jersey, almost three-storey high with ‘The Rockstar’ written on it, was pasted at the entrance of the pavilion building of the SCA stadium. With Jadeja’s wedding set for Sunday, the all-rounder is the topic of discussion everywhere.
Jadeja has played international games here, but the IPL has its own buzz. It’s this tournament that has given the local boy name and fame. The nickname ‘Rockstar’, given to him by his first IPL skipper, Shane Warne, when he was with Rajasthan Royals (RR), has stuck and Gujarat Lions continue to cash in on it. The left-arm spinner and lower-order bat has not looked back since his days with RR, establishing himself at Chennai Super Kings before getting the international break.
“I have seen bowlers at U-16 and U-19 levels replicating Jadeja’s action. He is quite popular in this region,” says former India Test cricketer Dhiraj Parsana, an all-rounder from Rajkot, who played first-class cricket for Saurashtra.
Though not having the same aura as Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Virat Kohli, Jadeja’s popularity here is to be seen to be believed. “He has a good market here,” says Parsana.
As a batsman, more is expected of Jadeja at the international level, but he has been phenomenal for his state team, scoring double and triple centuries. No doubt, those runs have translated into popularity here.