Just about two years ago, the career of the IPL's fifth and latest two-million-dollar man hit rock bottom, with little sign of a recovery. Ravindra Jadeja, then only 21, was handed a one-year ban from playing in the IPL. His offence was to try and negotiate a deal with Mumbai Indians while still under an obligation to play for Rajasthan Royals. The "rockstar", as Shane Warne had so memorably dubbed him, had been cut off from the stage. (Live IPL Player List)
Worse was to follow. A few months later, he was one of seven players who were sent a show-cause notice by the BCCI following a brawl at a St Lucia pub shortly after India's exit from the 2010 World Twenty20. Jadeja ended up apologising to the board. Later the same year, he found himself out of the India team as well, replaced by Yusuf Pathan, and missed out on the 2011 World Cup.
Debu Mitra, Jadeja's coach at his domestic side Saurashtra, believes too much was made of the allrounder too soon - he was only 19 when Warne turned him into a star. Mitra thinks that Jadeja should have been allowed to simply get on with the business of playing cricket. But the last blow, the loss of his India cap, forced Jadeja to take stock of his situation.
"When he was dropped from the India side, it was a lesson for him," Mitra said. "He changed himself a lot and worked even harder after that. He became very determined. Improved his batting. Improved his weak points." Mitra said Jadeja took to coming to practice early and asking his coach to bowl throw-downs while he worked on various aspects of his technique. He also began picking Mitra's brain on how to approach the game in the middle.
That hard work has paid off in spades in Saturday's IPL auction. Jadeja has already regained his place in the India side, thanks in part to Yusuf's poor performances. Now he has become the latest member of the IPL's two-million-dollar club.
Last year the now-terminated Kochi Tuskers Kerala bought Jadeja for $950,000, and he repaid them by making 283 runs at a strike rate of 124.12, and taking eight wickets at an economy rate of 7.26. What the statistics don't show, however, is the impact Jadeja can have as a fielder as well. He is extremely agile across the ground. Australia found out just how quick in the second Twenty20 international against India on Friday, when he ran out Aaron Finch and George Bailey.
Physical talents aside, Mitra said Jadeja is also very tough mentally. He cited Saurashtra's last Ranji Trophy game this season as proof of the player's refusal to give in. On a difficult pitch to bat on, Saurashtra were bowled out for 175. "Then he took six wickets," Mitra said. "Railways couldn't make 100 even. In the second innings, he took four more wickets. The match was over."
Shitanshu Kotak, a tea-mate and former captain of Jadeja's, called him fearless. "He doesn't think much," Kotak said. "He just plays." Kotak also believes Jadeja has matured as he has grown older, and has learned from his mistakes.
Chennai Super Kings, who have bought Jadeja (after going to a tie-break with Deccan Chargers, following the teams' bids of their maximum purse of $2 million), are going to get someone Mitra called three players in one. "He is equivalent to three players - batsman, bowler and fielder," Mitra said. "Nowadays you don't get many players like him."