While the fandom of Indian cricket players is mostly toxic which doesn’t allow any criticism and hypes the shit out of their idol 24/7 for 365 days, the case is slightly different for Ravindra Jadeja. Unlike MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja doesn’t have fandom as such, only the derived fans of CSK who stan the player for the reason that he plays for their franchise.
The dynamics of Ravindra Jadeja and Indian fan’s relationship is an interesting one. To phrase it correctly, Ravindra Jadeja has a love-hate relationship with Indian fans. On odd days like yesterday, Ravindra Jadeja is the best all-rounder the country has ever seen, surpassing Kapil Dev. On even days, Ravindra Jadeja is the least deserving player in the team. This might seem unfair or biased projection but it is not the case. Stanning Ravindra Jadeja is like being in a relationship with a person with multiple personality syndrome. You can’t love more of the bowler that Ravindra Jadeja is but at the same time your hate for the batter Ravindra Jadeja cannot be more.
Let me walk you through some incidents that led to the current stature of the relationship between Indian fans and Jadeja. It’s 2009 and Ravindra Jadeja is slowly cementing his position in the team. We are playing Australia who post 350 on the board. As with the majority of the matches in that decade, Sachin plays a brilliant knock of 175 only to fall while requiring just 19 runs. Ravindra Jadeja is an all-rounder who bats down the order and has to finish the match for India but to his misfortune, he is run out shortly after and we lose the match by just 3 runs. It’s one of the many heartbreak losses whose scars are still afresh in the minds of Indian fans mainly Sachin fans. The majority finds Jadeja to be the reason for the loss and this is the first match in Jadeja’s career where the dislike towards his batting is planted in our minds.
However, he has been mostly compensated for the batting shortcomings in LOI with his bowling prowess who went on to become the mainstay bowler with Ravichandran Ashwin till 2017 CT. Even after 2017 CT, the Jadeja the bowler has been in and around the team, thanks to the all-rounder tag that he carries. The Kul-Cha combo broke post 2019 WC and Ravindra Jadeja was back in the LOI team but his batting mettle was still on and off. The number of matches where he contributed with the bat in the team’s victory is very low which continued to disappoint the Indian fans. Also, his batting style is not appealing to the eyes. He tends to preserve his wicket a lot. He falls under the category of pre-injured Shreyas Iyer and the stat-padding IPL KL Rahul style of batters who can frustrate the viewer with their stroke play. Jadeja the player has become indispensable over the years with his bowling and hence the Indian fans are forced to put up with Jadeja’s batting which is mostly tortuous to watch.
The case is different in tests. Jadeja the batter has grown to be one of the best in the format in recent years with several rescue innings down the order. However, his ability to farm strike with tailenders is still under criticism. He tends to expose the tailenders in the tests which has led to the team getting bowled out sooner. This can be a stretch to dislike a player but the LOI batter dislike has assisted in nitpicking Jadeja the batter in tests as well for the Indian fans.
The love-hate relationship became the most toxic in this year’s IPL. It was assumed that MS Dhoni would hang his boots after this IPL and the fans across the country wanted to see MS bat. Since his batting has regressed over the years, MS Dhoni bats way down the order after Jadeja. Hence, whenever Jadeja got out, the roar for MS Dhoni was thunderous and Jadeja seemed to have taken it to the heart as he was expressing that subtly in his presentation and Twitter posts. While this seems a fair argument from Jadeja’s POV, why would ask a batter to get dismissed soon? The stats tell a different story. He averaged only 23 in this year’s IPL and 7 out of 12 times his SR was lesser than 150. The off-field antics of Jadeja as a staunch BJP supporter who shows immense pride in his caste didn’t help as well and the dislike grew even more, at least in the south.
The lovers reaffirmed their love finally after two months of hate when Ravindra Jadeja sealed CSK the trophy with a six and a four in the last two balls in the final against Gujarat Titans.
The general folks who mix love and hate should understand two things. One, After travelling with Ravindra Jadeja for over 14 years it should be understood that the love-hate relationship will continue to exist as long as Jadeja plays. Two, the love is mostly for Jadeja the bowler and the hate is for Jadeja the batter, two entirely different personalities.