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Jadeja nurses a dream

Sriram Veera


Ravindra Jadeja had his first taste of international cricket today and he showed that he belongs there. He didn't embarrass himself. Through the last ten days, whenever one has bumped into him at the team hotel, Jadeja has always been talking about grabbing his chance when the opportunity comes
In the morning, ahead of Jadeja's first one-day international, Sachin Tendulkar gave him the India cap on the ground. It's been a 12-year dream for Jadeja. It's the story of a young boy and his mother standing firm on the path to walk in life. When he was just eight and beginning to fall in love with the game, his father, a security guard, decided he had to join the army and was just a day away from enrolling him. Jadeja cajoled his mother to persuade his father from doing it.
Later, he made his first-class debut in a Duleep Trophy game in 2006 and hit a 49-ball 53 with six fours and two sixes against an attack comprising Anil Kumble, Sreesanth, L Balaji and Pragyan Ojha.
Jadeja's mother passed away in 2005 and he has been nursing her dream. "She wanted to see me in Indian colours. Losing her was the saddest moment of my life." The young boy has fulfilled his promise.
It didn't get off to a great start, though. Sanath Jayasuriya cut one hard at Jadeja, reputed to be a fine fielder, but he clanged it. It must have upset the boy but he willed on. And he had a mini-redemption with a run out. Farveez Maharoof had turned a ball past square leg and immediately called for two. He shouldn't have, because Jadeja hared in from the deep and fired in a flat, fast and accurate throw at the bails.
The attention swung to his batting. When he walked in, Jadeja's partner was his captain. He didn't pick a couple of deliveries from Ajantha Mendis but with a little bit of help from Mahendra Singh Dhoni, he improved and started to look the part.
With a reputation of being able to hit a long ball on the domestic circuit, Jadeja's best shot today was a delicate late cut. Jayasuriya fired in a 97kph delivery skidding from a length around the off stump. Jadeja was initially on the front foot but pressed back quickly to play a deft shot. It was the second of his five boundaries but the best of the lot.
Shane Warne, his IPL captain, may well have texted him. "We identified him as a special talent straight away," Warne said back then. Shane Watson too was impressed. "He was hitting it wherever he wanted, against bowlers of the quality of Brett Lee."
In domestic cricket, Jadeja has often thrown his wicket away, going for the big shots. In a quarterfinal game in 2006 against Mumbai, 13 runs short of his maiden hundred, he gave it away with a slog sweep. Shitanshu Kotak, his senior team-mate in Saurashtra, called him a gadha (donkey) in jest for the next few days. Jadeja simply laughed, then. Today, he didn't throw it away. The captain was happy.
Jadeja might have done enough to get himself a seat on a certain flight to New Zealand.

Sriram Veera is a former staff writer at ESPNcricinfo