Every Ravindra Jadeja dismissal this season has resulted in the loudest cheer from Chennai Super Kings fans during IPL 2023. For walking out to bat just before the CSK skipper seven times in the season.
But in the early hours of May 30, nearly 31 hours after the IPL 2023 final between Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans was originally scheduled to begin, Jadeja got the most applause – not because he was dismissed. In fact, he had just won CSK a record-equalling 5th title.
For only the third time in the season, Dhoni was out in the middle ahead of Jadeja and he meant business. With the title at stake, 22 needed off 14 balls; Seeing the walkout of MSD to complete the work, there was a hue and cry in the Narendra Modi Stadium.
The walk was full of enthusiasm with chants of ‘Dhoni, Dhoni, Dhoni’ echoing all around the huge stadium; One has to believe that this script was written just for MSD, a long script at that, but apt, one would say.
Mohit Sharma bowled a full ball outside off, Dhoni tried to smash it over extra cover – couldn’t do it – ball went into the safe hands of David Miller. 0 off 1.
Golden duck for MS Dhoni; It was anti-climatic; Almost sad when you think about it. In Dhoni’s first international match (2004, 1st ODI, vs Bangladesh), he was dismissed for a golden duck (run out). Was it coming full circle for the great – a Shakespearean end, you would think, if this was indeed MSD’s last appearance as a player on the cricket field.
Surely it can’t be?!
In walks Sir Ravindra Jadeja – the man who has at times endured scorn, ridicule, even disrespect during different phases of his career – both at the international level and in the IPL – in equal measure.
CSK fans, who till that moment had been cheering Jadeja’s dismissal so that Dhoni could come out to bat, were now cheering for Dhoni, for Jadeja to get the job done.
Jadeja walked in this time to cheers of anticipation, desperation to a great extent.
The master finisher was gone, the only hope of CSK fans now remains in the man they have been cheering to get out all season. Poetic justice is what Jadeja must have felt walking out.
He had to face the hat-trick ball. 22 needed 13. He dismissed the final delivery for a single and then faced Mohammed Shami. A brilliant over in the context of the match, Jadeja and Shivam Dube fail to connect one to the boundary. 8 runs scored. The equation is 6 of 13.
It’s 0, 1, 1, 1 for Dubey and Jadeja as Sharma hits four blockhole deliveries. 10 for 2 – This is Dhoni’s territory, but it is Jadeja who was batting.
The CSK fans were hoping for a glimmer of hope and Sharma erased the length ball and Jadeja edged the ball over long-on. The roar of the Yellow Army was deafening. 1 out of 4 – This was awesome.
Final ball Sharma targets for a yorker but it is complete loss towards the pads and Jadeja just has to make a single contact which he does. Narendra Modi Stadium flared up again, Jadeja was going mad with his hands spread in the air; At the other end, Dube lifted the stumps in excitement; The CSK dugout erupted in joy – MS Dhoni though was calm, sitting on his seat with a tired smile and clapping.
Jadeja didn’t do his customary sword celebration – he must have been forgotten, or considered as insignificant as the moment was for Dhoni, for CSK as he would later dedicate the victory to his mentor. He went up to Dhoni and it was then that the great showed some rare emotion and embraced his deputy – so he thought a season ago – in a warm hug and a big smile. Jadeja did only one Dhoni.
Jadeja was once described as a rockstar by the late Shane Warne. For Team India, his numbers rival the best in the business – legends included – when it comes to all-round abilities. Yet, Jadeja is perhaps not adored as much as many of his India teammates are by his fans.
Jadeja is not the archetypal process man. He speaks his mind on and off the field as well. Twitter is Jadeja’s favorite hunting ground for fans, critics, trolls and what not. But he is not one to back down. From hitting back at his trolls or picking fights with former cricketers – Jadeja takes no prisoners.
Even in CSK – where Dhoni and Suresh Raina are revered and respected – Jadeja falls short in this regard. Throughout this season he has been vocal about the lack of support he has received from CSK fans and talks of a rift between Jadeja and Dhoni is not something the former has let go. They have not silenced that noise, but have raised their voices on it.
After last season’s captaincy loss and poor form, Jadeja was feeling the pressure. As a long-time CSK player and someone touted as Dhoni’s successor, Jadeja had big shoes to fill and he faltered. But, this year Jadeja was completely different on the show. Focused on his performances, he was quietly the MVP of the team even though the likes of Devon Conway, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Tushar Deshpande became the most talked about players in the team this year.
He was also in top form, giving back to his critics and fans alike on social media and there was no better way to shut down all those condescending voices than by giving the title to CSK and Dhoni.
The people of Tamil Nadu have a tendency to give surnames to those they like and respect – admired symbols. From MGR’s Purchi Thalaivar (Revolutionary Leader), M Karunanidhi’s Kalainaar (Artist) to Rajinikanth’s Thalaivar (Leader), Kamal Haasan’s Ulaga Nayagan (Universal Hero), Sivaji Ganesan’s Nadigar Thilagam (Actor’s Pride)
MS Dhoni was decorated with Thala (leader) while Suresh Raina has been made Chinna Thala (deputy leader).
Now, to that long list, the time has come when CSK fans add Ravindra Jadeja’s name and give him the moniker Thalapathy (Commander).