“When Jadeja first came to us (in 2008), he was described to us as a left-arm spin bowler and a handy lower-order batsman,” said Shane Warne while speaking about his first impression of the Indian allrounder. “We had trial games and all that sort of stuff and watching him, I saw something in him and I thought, ‘I think he can bat. He is better than a No 8. I think he can be a genuine all-rounder. I think he can bat in the top 5 or 6 and he can bowl and he is a really good fielder. We turned him into a No 5 batsman and relied on him with the ball as well and I think he enjoyed that responsibility. He’s been one of our success stories.”
Jadeja was a young star then, just starting his career, having come back from the 2008 U19 World Cup. And many weren’t quite sure of how to slot him. He could bat, he could bowl and he could field but none of those attributes could be described as outstanding at that point. The potential was clear but then so many have potential.
Still, that didn’t stop Warne from calling Jadeja a ‘Rockstar’. He let the world know and put his weight behind the youngster.
Many years later, Jadeja revealed that he had never fully understood the exact context of Warne’s praise: “I didn’t know the meaning of Rockstar. I was just thinking: ‘I don’t sing a song. I don’t play anything. Why is he calling me a Rockstar?’”
Still, with the passage of time and a better understanding of his own talents, Jadeja has blossomed into the kind of cricketer every captain would like in his team. When the team is in trouble while batting, he digs in. As a bowler, he bowls the tough overs. As a fielder, he is forever brilliant... a rockstar in every sense of the word.
On Day 1 of the first Test in Mohali, at 228/5, Sri Lanka would have thought they had done very well but then the Lahiru Kumara injury happened and Rishabh Pant took over the proceedings. The match quickly turned on its head but when the visitors got the Indian keeper out late in the day, they would have felt a little relieved.
Just Jadeja and a few more batters to go through and the job will be done. They will be able to put up their feet and rest. But it would have been difficult for them to account for the recent batting brilliance of Jadeja. The left-hander worked his way to 175 not out, the highest score by an Indian at No 7 or lower.
It was an innings that saw him do everything with rare composure. He first played second fiddle to Pant, then added 130 runs off 174 balls with R Ashwin in a more equal partnership and then he finally took over, contributing 71 in an unbroken stand worth 103 with Mohammed Shami.
Jadeja’s game was solid. Yes, there were a few edges but there was so much mental discipline on display. There was no clear area to exploit but he held himself back because he knew he was capable of so much more than a cameo. The great application he showed throughout the innings had the Sri Lankans wilting.
It was the kind of batting display you expect from a top-order batter but one that we are seeing Jadeja deliver over and over again. And he is doing it across formats.
And if the day wasn’t ‘rockstarry’ enough, he then came on to bowl and took a wicket in his first over. He got one to turn in sharply to trap Sri Lankan skipper Dimuth Karunaratne leg before the wicket.
And because the day had been so heavy with memories of Warne, it was hard not to see that he acknowledged Jadeja’s talent in a way few others did before him.
If anything, the mind goes back to when in 2008, at the DY Patil Stadium, Warne (the Rajasthan Royals skipper) called Jadeja over and told Harsha Bhogle, “This kid is a rockstar”. He repeated it to anyone who would listen and now, especially today, it just seemed like Jadeja was paying the most apt tribute possible.