Weekly Sports Newsletter: Jadeja’s Chance to Get Away with Dhoni’s Staff

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There are a few traits that new CSK captain Ravindra Jadeja shares with his predecessor and lifelong mentor, MS Dhoni. Jadeja too keeps her cricket simple and the world at arm’s length. But is this enough to perpetuate the Dhoni legacy? This is a question with no simple answers.

A few years ago, Jadeja fell out of favor, he was not part of the Indian team. He was showing up for Saurashtra in a Ranji match. It was the time when the Indian team was blinded by their love for wrist spinners. The names of the country’s best match winners – finger spinners Jadeja and Ashwin – would not be found on the playing eleven.

The theoretical assumption that China’s Kuldeep Yadav and Leggie Yuzvendra Chahal would bother batsmen by breaking the ball on real pitches wouldn’t last long. But until this realization made itself felt in the Indian team, Jadeja had to go to obscure grounds on the national circuit.

In one of these places, Jadeja took a bag full of wickets and was in a happy mood. He talked about his cricket, the training program and even his horses. But he declined the interview request.

No excuses, no elaborate plan to fool the media, just a simple crude reason to avoid the headlines. “Aapke likhne se kya mujhe indian team mai le lenge? (Do you think they will include me in the team if you write about me?),” he said.

Before I could say “Maybe,” he raised his hand, signaling that he had more to say. “To come back to the team, I have to score runs, I have to take wickets.”

That day, Jadeja also said that saying he was Dhoni’s favorite hurt him. He said such comments not only undermined his talent, but insulted Mahi bhai’s reputation as India’s most famous leader. Once again, he recalled, only “runs and wickets” matter.

Jadeja did just that. He was back, and how. His upgraded stick would give Test captains the right balance on the road. At home, his mere presence atop the bowling mark on a tired lane would send visiting batsmen shivering. His return to form was perfectly timed.

CSK, at the start of IPL 15, like any well run business, would start looking beyond the aging Dhoni and put a succession plan in place. Suresh Raina, once considered Dhoni’s heir apparent, had gone astray. Once an interim India captain, 35-year-old Raina looked exhausted and exhausted. Jadeja, at 33, could not afford such luxury. He could still play 35 overs, a day after scoring nearly 200. And any of those days he could be trusted to sprint from the deep center wicket to the short square leg just to save a single with one of those prickly throws at the top of the stumps.

Jadeja’s overwhelming presence on the pitch is intimidating, but does he have the seriousness needed to lead a CSK-sized franchise? The easy answer to this question is “No”. But that wouldn’t be considered a well-thought-out, or even well-researched, answer. Because Jadeja has a virtually non-existent captain’s record.

Busy representing India, he was not even considered a ruler of Saurashtra. Most of his career he often ended up doing the dirty work of cricket. Throwing tight power plays and hitting lower in order in critical situations. Now it’s his time. It can no longer complain of being underused or unfairly overused.

Those interested in the national team will keep a close eye on how captain Jadeja handles all-rounder Jadeja. Throughout his career there is always a debate about where he should hit and when he should play. Lately the captains have been grilled at press conferences to get Jadeja up the order. Keep an eye on CSK’s batting order, it might give a clue to India’s World T20 roster later this year.

It would be naive to think that Dhoni would retire and just be a wicket-keeper. He will surely have his say. But history shows that Dhoni is not a troublesome senior. When Virat Kohli replaced him as captain, Dhoni knew when to step in. It wasn’t until things got out of control that there was a cry behind the stumps, “Cheeku, rakh sakta hai briefs” or some sort. It would sound like a suggestion, but it would ultimately be the team’s game plan. Keep your ears open for the voice over the stump microphone,”Jaddu, slip rakh sakta hai” could be a signal that the crisis man has taken over. But before that, Jaddu would have the time and the space to do his thing, show his leadership courage.

The only lesson Jadeja, or any other ruler, can learn from Dhoni would be his commitment to captaincy. India’s iconic skipper has never let his form influence the conduct of his offspring. It helped that he was the wicket-keeper. Jadeja, the all-rounder, is always at the heart of the action. A day in the field is like a roller coaster ride. He can’t afford to sulk or go into a shell because of a bad spell or a missed hold. Can the rockstar in him instill a monk’s distance?

It would be the season of accounts for Jadeja the leader. With India still undecided on their emergency captain, IPL 15 may be something of a race for new leaders – KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and now Jadeja. The sight of a captain with an IPL trophy can change public perception and influence selection decisions.

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Sandeep Dwivedi
National Sports Editor
The Indian Express

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