"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." A fellow Gujarati, Mahatma Gandhi, could well have meant to say this about Ravindra Jadeja. The best of observers ignored his steady left-arm spin at first, then he was ridiculed for his three triple-centuries in Ranji Trophy, the idea of Jadeja the Test player was contested when India gave him debut in 2012-13 against conventional wisdom, but in India's series win against Australia, Jadeja won them all over, not least by dismissing Michael Clarke five times in six innings.
The ridicule of Jadeja’s triples – more than any Indian has ever hit in first-class cricket – was actually an indictment of Indian domestic cricket, that a batsman proven to be limited in his days in international cricket could score triples with ease because of the quality of tracks and attacks. However, his record with the ball in ODIs, his fielding, and his rocket arm made him a valuable player in shorter formats, which showed when Chennai Super Kings paid $2 million to secure his services. In August 2013 he topped the ICC’s ODI bowling rankings, becoming the first Indian to do so since Anil Kumble in 1996.
Shane Warne, his IPL captain at Rajasthan Royals, nicknamed Jadeja “rockstar” because of his confidence in his own ability, but his utility lies in his ability to do the dirty work. He is unerring in his accuracy, can bowl overs and overs without tiring, and maximises the natural variation available in the pitch. His fielding and his batting made him an easy pick as a third spinner in Tests in India, a ploy that worked like a charm in India’s 4-0 win against Australia in early 2013. Clarke, one of the better players of spin going around, will testify, as will 24 wickets at 17.45 in what was his first full series.
When R Ashwin suffered a dip in form, Jadeja became India’s lead spinner on the tours of South Africa and New Zealand in 2013-14 and the first part of their England tour of 2014. While he had his moments, such as a six-for in Durban and a breezy, match-turning 57-ball 68 at Lord’s, his bowling was one-dimensional and rarely penetrative on most of the surfaces India encountered. He sat out the fifth Test of the England tour, and flew home early from the Australia tour of 2014-15 with a shoulder injury.
Jadeja’s bowling lacked both the accuracy and the bite of old when he returned for the 2015 World Cup, suggesting that his shoulder had still to recover fully. He was left out of the ODI side that toured Zimbabwe in in July 2015, and though it was a second-string squad, the selectors confirmed that Jadeja had been dropped and not rested.
Back in domestic cricket, Jadeja made sure the selectors could not ignore him while picking the squad for the upcoming home Tests against South Africa. In his first three matches of the 2015-16 Ranji Trophy season, all in Rajkot, on dustbowls prepared to maximise the threat of his bowling, he picked up six successive five-wicket hauls – apart from scoring two half-centuries – for Saurashtra. The surfaces that hosted the four Tests against South Africa gave lavish assistance to the spinners, and Jadeja was close to unplayable at times while picking up 23 wickets at 10.82 to help India to a 3-0 series win.
With the Super Kings franchise suspended for two seasons, the nuts and bolts of the team were dismantled ahead of the 2016 IPL season, with Jadeja finding a new home at Gujarat Lions.