Ravindra Jadeja- A king in his Neverland

He always had the Jamnagar pedigree, though not the affluence. How Ravindra Jadeja, wild child of Indian cricket, doter of horses and a brother answerable to his sister, aspires to become modern-day royalty.

The bluest of Jadejas, Jamnagar’s ruling Rajput dynasty, who is Jam Sahib to local residents, still lives in a palace and owns a 45-acre nature reserve, which once housed about 10,000 royal pets, in the city’s centre. Miles away from the trunk of that famous family tree, but distantly connected by a thin off-shoot of a modest sub-branch, are several pleb-Jadejas. Born in a one-room government flat to a nurse and a security guard, “our Jadeja” was one such commoner.

Like the rest of India, aristocracy died long ago in this Gujarat region but an ingrained reverence for the stately second name is alive. So like all Jadejas, Ravindra Jadeja too was called Bapu — derived from baap (father), it is a term of endearment coined for benevolent kings or mass leaders in Saurashtra — and greeted with a “Jai mataji”. “Hello” or “kem cho” are for the masses. Salutations by way of hailing Jamnagar’s revered mother goddess are reserved for the “warrior class”
It is a different world, this caste-divided, deeply religious land which is littered with history. Time here imitates the slow crawl of life on wide, empty roads snaking through imposing heritage buildings.

Uninfluenced by the lethargy around him, Jadeja took the fast lane to fame. He would go on to master cricket, a game that has a long history in this region, to be a Team India star, man of the tournament at the Champions Trophy that India won in June this year, World No.1 ODI bowler, known television face — and thus modern-day royalty. Ravindrasinh Anirudhsinh Jadeja is the newest name on Jamnagar’s cricketing honours board, one that is topped by a prince whose graceful leg glance made the British go weak in their knees.
Maharaj Ranjitsinhji Jadeja, Ranji to the world and great-granduncle to the present-day Jam Sahib, represented Cambridge, Sussex and England. In a different century, another Jadeja from Jamnagar is a regular with Saurashtra, Rajasthan Royals, Chennai Super Kings and India; teams that can match up, both in terms of skills and stature, to the ones Ranji represented.

Cricket has shrunk the great divide. Defying lineage, Jadeja has shaved off a few degrees of separation with the first family. By virtue of his long, arduous journey from a rundown government house to an upmarket flat at present and a sprawling under-construction bungalow in the future, Jadeja has geographically moved closer to the palace and socially to the royal tree. He also has the aura of the Jadejas, the ones from the palace. “Bapu, jai mataji.” Jadeja has arrived.

It is this back story that makes one understand Jadeja and the changes on a plot of land, about 25 km from Jamnagar. Three years ago, an eight-acre plot got a new owner and a fence. A sprawling modern bungalow followed, with bright-red “RJ” monograms, in roughly 1,000 points, painted on the sparkling white compound walls. Next to it a swimming pool was dug. All this needed upkeep and security. So a landless farmhand’s family of six was invited to occupy a comfortable corner in the compound. And then a couple of horses trotted in. The spindly Doberman, Rocky, had company and an experienced equine expert, the owner’s country cousin, had a 24-hour job . A young man, who had a deprived childhood, had his Neverland.

Jadeja is keen on a farmhouse interview and arrives in his A4 Audi, a luxury car worth a few lakhs over half-a-crore. The car’s boot has a different monogram from the one on the wall. It reads Ravi, with the tail of the extra-curvy cursive “R” cradling the “AVI” in dwarfed capitals. Jadeja steps out with lips pursed to help his left hand twirl the right wing of that famous moustache. The right hand, meanwhile, acknowledges the “Jai matajis” from the small group of eager retainers. Rocky comes running but it is obvious that he isn’t the blue-eyed pet at the farm. That status is reserved for Ganga and Kesar.