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Jadeja & Co: Knocking on History's Door with Unfinished Business

A stalwart of many World Cups, Ravindra Jadeja is a man on a mission this time around. 

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World Cup
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“There’s always unfinished business in life, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to finish what we’ve started.”

It is not certain if Ravindra Jadeja has come across this quote in his life, but if he has, he would probably be happy to endorse the essence of it. The quote sums up the star Indian all-rounder's struggles to be counted as one of the best in the world and as one with unfinished business.

Back in 2019, Jadeja was drafted into the playing XI during the previous ODI World Cup after a lengthy wait. He featured in just two games at the back end of that tournament after the Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal experiment boomeranged – and the team think-tank was forced to go back to the stalwart.

Till that point, the team management had banked on the two leg-spinners to spin them to World Cup glory but after England blasted them, the plan was junked.

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When a Billion Hearts Were Broken

During that World Cup in 2019, Jadeja was looked at as a defensive option on flat pitches. In the semifinal against New Zealand, he held his own with the ball and was the best bowler with figures of one for 34. Then, during a modest chase on the second day of the semifinal, India was struggling at 92 for six. India was still about 148 runs short of the target.

That is when Jadeja joined his former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the crease. Brick by brick the duo started rebuilding the Indian innings. The quiet Indian fans at the venue and all around the world slowly found their voice again. They cheered each run that the duo put together.

India began dreaming again. A place in the final at Lord’s, mecca of cricket. Jadeja even pulled out the celebrations with the bat being wielded as a sword.
A stalwart of many World Cups, Ravindra Jadeja is a man on a mission this time around. 

When Jadeja was dismissed for 77 off just 59 balls with four boundaries and four sixes, a billion hearts were broken.

Everyone dreamt of a repeat of 1983.

But when Jadeja was dismissed for 77 off just 59 balls with four boundaries and four sixes, a billion hearts were broken. Then, when Dhoni was tragically run out, no one ever recovered from that. Martin Guptill will never be forgiven for this fatal error of being swift and accurate with his throw.

Dhoni did not play for India again. Virat Kohli is no longer the captain, the then head coach Ravi Shastri is now back in the commentary box. A few other players on either side are no longer on the circuit.

But one man, Jadeja, is still up and running. He is still taking on the best in the world with his fielding, bowling, and batting. He is the only genuine all-rounder in the squad for India during the ongoing World Cup. The two other all-rounders Hardik Pandya and Axar Patel are out injured. This means the entire role of providing balance to the line-up lies with Jadeja.  He therefore must shoulder much responsibility during the remainder of the World Cup.

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Unfinished Business

You can tell that he is still hurting from that semifinal in the previous World Cup because he has unfinished business.

He was a fixture in all games during the 2015 World Cup, but then in the previous edition he did not feature till the last two games. This time around Jadeja, therefore, had a lot to prove to everyone, but more importantly to himself.

He did not have anything to do with the bat in the first four games of the tournament. But he had a lot to do with the ball against Australia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Even on the field, Jadeja has played a big part in the tournament thus far.

He did drop the odd catch, but he saves more runs and takes more catches than the average player. So, he is a plus in every way possible.

Against New Zealand he came in at a tricky time, but then teamed up with his oldest teammate, Virat Kohli. Their stand ensured that India beat New Zealand in an ICC event after twenty years. Later against Sri Lanka in Mumbai, he teamed up with Shreyas Iyer at a crucial time to notch up a crucial unbeaten 35. His fielding and bowling later also played a part in Sri Lanka’s demolition job.

If you thought that Jadeja’s role ended there, then you are sadly mistaken. Jadeja played a crucial hand yet again on Sunday, this time against South Africa. The most important aspect of his effort in the match was first with the bat. His crucial unbeaten 29 came at a critical time and was like a sledgehammer for the already deflated South African line-up.

You could see that with each run that Jadeja scored, his partner Kohli was egging him on. Kohli’s gesture of tapping on Jadeja’s helmet after each hit was very endearing and also underlined the lengthy duration that these two have played with each other.

A stalwart of many World Cups, Ravindra Jadeja is a man on a mission this time around. 

Indian batter Virat Kohli with Ravindra Jadeja celebrates his century during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match between India and South Africa, at Eden Gardens, in Kolkata, Sunday, 5 November.

(Photo: PTI)

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The Real Hero

With a huge total to defend, India began well with Mohammed Siraj. But the real hero with the ball on the night was the trust all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja. Credit is also due to skipper Rohit Sharma for bringing him on in the powerplay as his introduction paid dividends straightaway. The dismissal of South Africa captain Temba Bavuma was a peach of a delivery which just about beat the right-hander’s bat and castled him. Even Jadeja’s opposite number Keshan Maharaj was smartly deceived. That was a surprise because Maharaj himself is an accomplished left-arm spinner.

But the moment of the night was when Jadeja trapped Heinrich Klaasen right in front or so we thought.

The umpire, Kumar Dharmasena, was convinced that it was not out. But who can convince Jadeja? No one it seems. 

He kept insisting that Sharma must review it even as the others were not so convinced. His skipper reluctantly agreed and when it finally came in India’s favour, the joy on Jadeja’s face told a story. The entire Indian set-up joined in the celebrations. Jadeja is a much-loved character in the dressing room. The celebrations told a story of its own.

Jadeja also took two easy catches underlining his value to the side.

This was only the second time that the all-rounder's picked up a five-wicket haul in ODI cricket. The first time came back a decade back during the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013 against West Indies. Then as well India had an unbeaten run in the tournament as they delivered all-round performances in every game.

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A stalwart of many World Cups, Ravindra Jadeja is a man on a mission this time around. 

India's Ravindra Jadeja celebrates with teammates the wicket of South African batter Heinrich Klaasen during the ICC Mens Cricket World Cup 2023 match between India and South Africa, at Eden Gardens, in Kolkata, Sunday, 5 November.

(Photo: PTI)

The story of the ongoing World Cup has been something similar. But even in the previous editions of the ODI World Cup India had a similar winning run only to be stymied in the semifinals on both occasions. It is mind boggling that since the title triumph at home twelve years back, India has lost just three World Cup games, including two semifinals.

Hence, there is still unfinished business for both Jadeja and India right now, with at least three more games to win to be crowned the undisputed ODI World Champion again. Jadeja and Co would do well to refer to the quote right at the top to remind themselves that they need to keep trying to finish what they have started.

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