It has been a tough two years for Ravindra Jadeja in the IPL. After being anointed the captain of the Chennai Super Kings last year, the all-rounder saw the job taken away from him midway through the season after a poor start in which the team lost six of the first eight matches.
This year, the 34-year-old had to endure something no elite athlete wants to see. For the first 15 matches of the season, every time Jadeja walked out to bat, the crowd – even at the team’s home ground at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium – fervently rooted for his dismissal as it would bring M.S. Dhoni to the crease.
But in a span of just two balls in the wee hours of Tuesday, when the trophy was slipping away from the Men in Yellow, it came down to the ‘Rockstar’ from Rajkot to smash the final ten runs to help his team become the joint-most successful side in the history of the competition alongside Mumbai Indians.
One of the most defining images of the night was a visibly welled-up Dhoni – someone who seldom lets emotions betray him – hugging and lifting his trusted lieutenant. The moment conveyed much more than the joy of winning the title for the fifth time.
The rumour mills were abuzz that the all-rounder was miffed last year when the captaincy was taken away from him, with reports of friction with Dhoni as well. Seen in that light, it carried a lot more significance.
After the match, Jadeja would say, “I’d like to dedicate this win to a special member of the CSK side, M.S. Dhoni.”
But it was not all smooth sailing this year for the all-rounder. Despite shining on the field—he had three Player of the Match awards—Jadeja has been cryptic and, at times, open about his predicament, letting out a feeling of not being loved enough.
“I keep hearing Mahi bhai’s chants. If I bat higher, then the crowd will wait for me to get out. As long as the team wins, I am happy,” he said after the match against the Delhi Capitals.
After receiving an award for ‘Most Valuable Player’, he took a dig at his detractors with a tweet saying, “Upstox knows but..some fans don’t.”
However, in the final, as he has done on numerous occasions for the team he joined in 2012, Jadeja ensured he had the final say with an impressive effort with both bat and ball. On a day when both teams scored at nearly 11 runs per over, Jadeja returned figures of one for 38 before doing the improbable with the bat.
The next time he goes out to bat in Chepauk in the IPL, irrespective of whether the man in the number 7 jersey is padded up in the dugout, the crowd will and should be more appreciative of the player sporting No. 8.