World Cup 2019, meet Team India: From Revadi to Chhatrapati - The Jadeja story!

While Ravindra Jadeja’s parents wanted to enrol him in the Sainik School, the youngster only wanted to play cricket.

We are in Jamnagar, in front of the Guru Gobind Singh Hospital in Pandit Nehru Marg, and our cab driver says with a smile: “This is Jadeja house…”

The reality, however, is slightly different. It’s been years since Ravindra Jadeja and his folks have moved to a palatial house near Patel Colony, but the locals still remember how a young ‘Revadi’ — as Jadeja is fondly called by the people of Jamnagar — would play in the premises of the hospital, along with his friends.

Back then, Jadeja’s mother, Lataben, worked as a nurse in the hospital and the family lived in a one-room employee flat allotted to her. 

The family would majorly survive on Lata’s earnings and whatever the man of the house, Anirudhsinh, brought home through his sporadic jobs was looked as a bonus.

Early struggles

There were struggles, but both Anirudhsinh and Lata ensured that their three children — Naina, Padmini and Ravindra — were well taken care of. The daughters were encouraged to study, while efforts were on to send the son to the Sainik School in nearby Balachadi, so that he could, in the due course of time, graduate as an army personnel.

“He (Jadeja) was always the darling of the house. Our parents were strict, but they were soft about Revadi (Jadeja’s nickname),” the eldest sister, Naina, says. sipping in her ‘strong’ cappuccino ‘with little sugar’.

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For the last few years, Naina has been juggling between Jamnagar and Rajkot, where she runs the restaurant Jaddu’s Food Field. But as she travels down memory lane, Naina remembers how her ‘little brother’ would complain as a child for not getting picked for local cricket matches. “He would go to play every day and come back crying. Most of the boys were bigger than him and he would never get a chance to bat. By the time it was his turn, the big boys would announce the game was over,” Naina recollects.

Jadeja (second from right) in his cricketing boyhood. Behind him are the pillars of the Cricket Bungalow in Jamnagar where he spent most of his time learning the game.   -  Vijay Soneji

 

Returning home, he would cry and complain that he never got a chance to bat. Only after rounds of pampering by his mother, the young Ravindra would soften. “He was mom’s favourite. There were days when he would just return from the ground and sleep. Mom would wake him up and feed him,” Naina remembers.

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While the parents wanted to enrol the boy in the Sainik School, the youngster wanted to play cricket. “He would even sleep-talk about cricket. Mom would tell us that Revadi would talk about cricket when he was fast asleep. We thought it was just a phase, but now we know, it wasn’t,” Nainalaughs.

He was barely eight, and was standing at quite a distance from realising his dreams.

- Helping hand -

That’s when Mahendrasinh Chauhan entered Jadeja’s life to change it for ever.

An acquaintance of Jadeja’s father, Chauhan was a policeman, who played a bit of cricket. He ran coaching sessions at the Cricket Bungalow in the heart of Jamnagar city. Back then, the Cricket Bungalow was not quite fancy as the name suggests. It was a bare field with a small building serving as a pavilion, and Chauhan — who doesn’t have any coaching certificates — would train a handful of youngsters. For the locals, he was a soft-spoken gentleman, but for his wards, Mahendra Sir was a ‘very strict disciplinarian.’

Mahendrasinh Chauhan, Jadeja’s first coach, has a lot of interesting things to say.   -  Vijay Soneji

 

“He was hardly eight, when his parents brought him here. He looked like a shy kid, and I was not convinced if he could handle pressure,” Chauhan, sitting in his old office at the Nawanagar Cricket Academy on the ground floor of the Cricket Bungalow, says of Jadeja. The walls have pictures of a young Jadeja placed diagonally opposite to that of Ranjit Sinhji and Amar Singh — two of Jamnagar's icons.

“I had made myself clear that I will only entertain this kid if he was able to follow my instructions. I did not want any nautanki here,” Chauhan says, with a smirk.

Back then, Chauhan would make all students sign a contract, making it clear that the academy would not charge a penny from the wards, but there were also a few guidelines.

“Even now, I write in the contract that players who drink or are addicted to gutkha and pan masala will not be entertained. This clause was applicable even back then,” he says. He had also informed the Jadejas that he would have the ‘license’ to beat up their son, in case he failed to live up to expectations.

“He (Chauhan) had also told us that we should not entertain Revadi if he came back home and complained. Mom and dad ensured they followed Mahendra ji’s advice,” Naina says.

Chauhan would make one of his wards stand in middle of the pitch and ask the bowlers to bowl over his head. That was his way of teaching basics to the kids, and there were times, when he himself would stand in the middle to encourage them.

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However, for the kids, it was more of a fear than encouragement. “At that time, Revadi would bowl seam-up. He was quite short, but he was good at it. There have been times when we all have been beaten up for committing mistakes. But that’s how we learned our game,” Chirag Pathak, one of Jadeja’s childhood friends and later a team-mate in the Saurashtra Ranji Trophy team, says.

- Sleeping disorder -

While he was quite serious about his game, Jadeja was also naughty. He would wander around after the sessions got over, and Naina, who would bring tiffin for him, would — most of the time — find her brother roaming around the Vinoo Mankad Statue, which is across the Cricket Bungalow. “We never received any complaints about him, but we knew what he would do in the Cricket Bungalow,”Naina says with a smile. “He would climb trees, walk across the walls.”

Back then, young Jadeja also had a ‘problem’ of sleepwalking. His mother first spotted the issue and when he was taken to Mumbai by Chauhan to play local tournaments the Jadeja family was quite worried.

“Both the senior and the junior teams went to Mumbai. There were nearly 30 players. There was also a chap called Jatin, who had a similar problem of sleepwalking. So, I knew that I had to handle the two,” Chauhan says.

After the team reached Mumbai, Jatin complained of home-sickness and left. That very night, Chauhan, too, spotted Jadeja’s sleeping disorder. “I asked him where he was going. He did not reply. I asked again, there was no reply. I slapped him hard. From that day, he has never sleepwalked,” the coach says.

This ‘slapping’ theory has worked in other areas as well. And Chauhan reveals the incident when he slapped Jadeja in the middle of a match as he was not pitching the ball in the right areas. “He scalped a five-for in that fixture,” the coach remembers.

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By then, the youngster had made it to the Saurashtra age-group teams and had become a known name in the local cricket circuit. The regional papers also published his pictures. The Jadeja family would save all the newspaper reports and Lata ensured that all her son’s achievements were celebrated. “She would cook delicious food for him, keeping the diet chart in mind,” Nainarecollects.

 

Jadeja’s elder sister, Naina, who has been a great influence on his life. She is now managing Ravindra’s restaurant, Jaddu’s Food Field, in Rajkot.   -  Vijay Soneji

Things were moving in the right direction for the family. And Jadeja — who had a fascination for bikes — had saved every bit of prize money, which he earned in local tournaments, to buy a two-wheeler.

- An untimely loss -

“He (Jadeja) always wanted to own a bike and after training sessions, he would take one of our bikes and run away. So, much before training got over, we would make sure to hide our keys,” Pathakreminiscences.

Finally, he bought one, a Bajaj Pulsar, on instalment. But the joy did not last long as Lata suffered burns in a kitchen accident and succumbed.

Jadeja was hardly 16 then, and was on the verge of being picked for the National Cricket Academy camp.

“It took him quite a few weeks to come to terms with the fact that mom was no more,” Naina says. The family sold off the Pulsar as many in the locality felt it had brought bad luck.

"As a youngster, he wasn’t pretty matured. He was a bit naughty at that age. But the important part is, throughout his career, he stuck to his strength, that gave him advantage."

-- Cheteshwar Pujara, India international and old friend

 

But sisters, Naina and Padmini, ensured that their Revadi was back to cricket again. Chauhan would spend hours talking to him on topics that had very little to do with cricket. And in the next few weeks, Jadeja was back on track.

At the age of 17, he was picked for the 2006 U-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka. Rohit Sharma and Jadeja’sstate-mate Cheteshwar Pujara were also in the squad.

- Friends forever -

Pujara still remembers when he met Ravindra — as he calls him — for the first time. “We met for the first time during the U-14 tournaments. Then, we went on to play U-14, U-16, U-19 together. At a young age, we got exposure to play cricketers who were more capable and far better than us. There was a lot of junior cricket, that gave us a lot of advantage,” Pujara says.

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Having been friends for years now, Pujara agrees that when Jadeja was drafted into the age-group teams, he was a bit mischievous. “As a youngster, he wasn’t pretty matured. He was a bit naughty at that age. But the important part is, he stuck to his strength, that gave him the advantage,” Pujarasays.

While the U-19 World Cup in 2006 wasn’t a memorable one for Jadeja, he bounced back strongly two years later and was named the vice-captain of the U-19 side for the World Cup in 2008. Another young talent, Virat Kohli, was named the captain.

Over the next few weeks, the band of boys created history, clinching the title.

Soon after, there came the IPL and Jadeja’s life changed forever.

In the inaugural edition of the tournament, the young gun was picked by Rajasthan Royals and some of the players who featured for the franchise in the first edition of the tournament, still remember how in the first nets session, Jadeja, with his sunglasses and sunscreen on, saw everyone greeting a white gentleman. He did not know who he was, so he just nodded from where he was sitting.

That white gentleman was none other than Shane Warne, who was the captain of the side that season.

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- Warne’s influence -

Over the next few weeks, Warne would call Jadeja a ‘rockstar’ and get the best out of him on the field. From being a young talent, Jadeja was now being noticed by the cricketing fraternity and was widely praised for his smart fielding and aggressive demeanour on the field. “He would call us everyday and tell us what Warne told him. He was loving all the attention,” Naina says.

In the very next year, he donned the India colours and featured in a few ODIs and T20s. Things looked like a dream, but suddenly there came a nightmare.

Before the 2010 IPL, Mumbai Indians showed interest in acquiring him. He reciprocated, thus breaking league rules. The then league in-charge, Lalit Modi, banned Jadeja for a year, but the franchise got away. “He was devastated. He would lock himself up and not talk to anyone,” Naina says.

Jadeja’s opulent house in Jamnagar. It has been named after Jadeja’s mother Lata, who passed away when he was only 16.   -  Vijay Soneji

 

By then, Jadeja had a farmhouse in the outskirts of Jamnagar and set up a stable. “In those days, he would just stay at the stable for hours, spend time with horses. That’s all he did. He would not even talk to us,” Naina says.

It took the family a while to boost Jadeja’s confidence, but eventually, he was back in business.

Naina feels that Jadeja’s career graph took an upswing when Chennai Super Kings bought him in the 2012 season of the IPL. “It was followed by the Champions Trophy next year, where he played a game-changing role. It boosted his confidence,” Naina says, thanking Mahendra Singh Dhoni for helping her brother.

Even after featuring for India regularly, Jadeja continued to be available for Saurashtra every now and then. “He is a thorough team-man. He is cheerful, fun-loving but very serious about the game,” says Jaydev Shah, who until last year was the captain of the Saurashtra team.

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Having seen Jadeja since his formative years, Shah is happy to see ‘Chhatrapati’ — as his team-mates call him, thanks to his bat-twirling (like a sword) celebration on the field — going up a long way. “We started calling him Chhatrapati after his antics on the field, but he took it sportingly. That’s the best part about him. He knows how to maintain a balance between on and off the field life,” Shah explains.

Before the 2015 World Cup, the family and his team-mates in Saurashtra were worried. With him recovering from injury, there was no clarity on whether he would be picked for the tournament. ButNaina was confident that her ‘Revadi’ would travel Down Under and he did. “I still remember, he called me up and informed about the selection. Our voices were choked…” she says.

As another World Cup beckons, Jadeja is being considered as one of the key weapons of the Indian team. Former cricketers like Dilip Doshi believe the conditions in England would help the 30-year-old. In the last four years, life has changed a lot for Jadeja. From being an eligible bachelor, he is now happily married and is also a father. “He is more matured now. He knows how to handle pressure,”Naina says, making it clear that her brother would fare well in England. “Bharosa hain…” she says.

For the next month and a half, this would be the catchword for millions of Indians. 

Bharosa hain…”

SIDELIGHTS

************************************

Name: Ravindrasinh Anirudhsinh Jadeja

Age: 30

From: Jamnagar

What do friends call him: Revadi, Chhatrapati

Favourite food: Dal Makkhani

First coach: Mahendrasinh Chauhan

Family secret: Jadeja always wanted to own a bike and after training sessions, he would take one of the team-mates’ bikes and run away. “So, much before training got over, we would make sure to hide our keys,” his old friend, Chirag Pathak, reminiscences.