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First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win. The Mahatma’s words could be a summary of Ravindra Jadeja’s cricketing career. But what’s it like to be a cricketer when you’re not playing the game?
Words Aninda Sardar
Photography Ashish Chandra
Hair & Makeup Pooja Dhakan
Styling Aditi Khanna
Celebrity Management Anant Arora,
Cornerstone Sports & Entertainment

Don’t go by his stylish Instagram profile or his flamboyant sword swinging celebratory style on the pitch, we have it on good authority that Ravindra Jadeja is actually an introvert. Surprised? Don’t blame you. So were we, to be honest and that only brings us back to the same old question, over and over again. Just how well do we think we know our idols? As is often the case, one thought leads to another and I finally land up at another question. Why don’t we get to know the man then, sans his team colours, sans the cricket ball, sans the bat and away from the flood lights?

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My biggest dream was to play for my country

“My biggest dream was to play for my country and that will always be my biggest achievement,” he tells us, and in that one statement reveals more about himself than he probably imagines. Here’s a man who was ridiculed, lampooned even, by the usual mob that is the combustible Indian cricket fan after a catastrophic performance at the World T20 back in 2009. Then his left arm spin bowling was largely ignored and his inclusion in the Indian squad in 2012-13 as debut test player was actually contested. So it would be natural to assume that Jadeja would want to highlight every achievement of his to hook a thumb at his past detractors in the smug delight that success inevitably brings, but no. He counts the chance to be a part of team Blue as his biggest achievement. “My first reaction was of complete shock as I didn’t expect it at all. I got a call from someone telling me I’ve been selected and it all came as a pleasant surprise for me,” he remembers.

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I detect a strange lack of ego for a  cricketer

I detect a strange lack of ego for a cricketer who will scarcely be able to step out of his home when he is in his hometown. “As a person, I think I’m a bit of an introvert. I’m a bit shy, I like being at home usually. I don’t go out so much, especially when I’m in my hometown,” he says quietly, opening yet another window into his private life. Which also makes us wonder how he handles the price of fame because fame destroys the comfort of anonymity. “It’s very difficult in India, because people here recognise you quickly. If we ever have to go, we go with adequate security,” he says, somewhat ruefully. It’s evident that he values his privacy. Who wouldn’t? I remember a time when I was waiting at the airport and one of the IPL teams was travelling. 

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People walked around the players shoving their phones into the players’ faces, taking selfies. Even when they were headed to the washroom, for crying out loud! Who wants that kind of invasion of privacy? Not Jadeja for sure. “However, in foreign countries, especially those with fewer Indians it’s easier to go out shopping or eat out,” he tells us. And yet another streak shines through, revealing Jadeja to be a man who would be able to see the silver lining if you handed him a storm cloud. Probably something that must have held him together when criticism was plentiful and opportunities few. “Generally I don’t think about how people will judge me, I just try to give my best on the field whenever I get a chance to perform whether I play for India or IPL, I don’t think what people will think about me outside the field,” he says. 
On the field however he has proven himself a valuable asset. “I think there are many matches I have played well under pressure, I can’t pick any one but recently I would pick the semis against NZ,” he tells me when I ask him if there’s a particular match that was a game-changer his life. He shone at the Champions Trophy winning the Golden Ball for his bowling prowess. In the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand he took nine wickets for India out of the eight games he played. That, in spite of a shoulder injury that he hadn’t fully recovered from. Even earlier, in 2013 he was ranked the top bowler in ODI cricket by the ICC, becoming one of only four Indian bowlers to have ever won that honour and the first to be ranked numero uno since Anil Kumble in 1996. The other two bowlers who have been ranked thus in the past are the legendary Kapil Dev and Maninder Singh. But let’s not get deviated by the great game for ours is a mission to get to know the man behind the uniform. So I change tack and head off in another direction – his style.

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I really enjoy running ever since I was a child

“Vintage and classy looks appeal to me a lot. I prefer a mixture of the old vintage and classy look, it’s a great combination according to me,” he says. “I think having style and a good personality is very important. The amount of cricket we play I think style is somewhat correlated to being fit.  I feel if you’re fit whatever style you carry, it will suit you.” I pounce at the opportunity and ask him about his fitness routine, something that many here would like to know given Jadeja’s obvious athleticism and stamina on the field. “I really enjoy running. Ever since I was a child, I used to love running, especially on the grass. I think it’s very important and of course hitting the gym regularly is imperative.”

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Not satisfied with the lack of details about his fitness routine, I change tack again and veer off towards his diet plan. “My diet plan is very simple. Generally if I’m playing I try to eat carbs. I try to avoid rotis, I eat gluten free rotis if at all but usually eat daal and chawal (lentils and rice). I try to avoid sweets and like to eat cut fruits.” Clearly the diet of a disciplined sportsman who knows that fitness isn’t just part of the game, being fit is the game. But there are cheat days too. “On cheat days I like ghar ka banaya hua laddoo.” 

A man more at ease with the informal, Jadeja prefers casuals to formals. “I prefer casuals because as compared to formals you have many more options. You can use different colour combinations and experiment a lot more, so primarily for that reason casuals.” And the beard? “As a style icon David Beckham, the way he carries himself and especially his beard is something remarkable.” Cryptic, but could be a clue. Speaking of icons I can’t help but ask him about his cricketing icon. Yuvraj Singh. “Since I started growing up, I would idolise Yuvraj Singh and imitate him, his style on the field. Really admired his game.” Nothing usual about this man, is there?

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I try to keep my family in good space

As the hour draws close I ask him about his personal goals for there are enough and more people out there who will be after his cricketing goals. “It is to have a happy family. I try to keep my family in a good space, in a good environment around good people, so that is my idea of an ideal achievement.” And again that introverted streak comes out in subtle ways. Before I end, I ask him if he’s ever given any thought to being something other than a cricketer. “A professional horse rider maybe,” he says, laughing. How very different from the man we are accustomed to seeing on telly! Brings me back to the beginning. Do we know our idols at all?