9th March 1996, Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore. The stadium was buzzing; it was packed to the brim with such intense crowd that it literally blew the stadium with its noise. The match was, of course, India against its arch-rival Pakistan, to boost the status, it was also the quarterfinal of the Worldcup.
Batting first, India was at 237/6 in 47 overs. Waqar Younis, one of the best death bowlers in ODIs came into bowl. What followed was something not even an ardent Indian fan would dream of. First Anil Kumble and later Ajay Jadeja tore apart the legendary bowler, the over-analysis read – 3,4,4,1,4,6 (22 runs)
Seeking redemption, Waqar came back to bowl the last over. Ajay Jadeja was facing him with Tony Greg on commentary. The combo sizzled, something that no one ever who has seen that will ever forget. The right-handed batsman smashed Waqar for a boundary first ball and a six down the ground next ball.
The next ball Ajay Jadeja got out but till then he had already etched his name in glory books. His knock of 45 runs off 25 balls was something unheard of in 90’s. India eventually ended up at 287/8. It is still the first memory that conjures up when one speaks of Ajay Jadeja.
Born on 1st February 1971 in a princely family, Ajaysinhji Daulatsinhji Jadeja made his Test and ODI debut in the same year of 1992. His batting was far away from the technical prowess that is required to be successful in Test cricket which meant he featured only in 15 Tests for India.
Jadeja was an immaculate fielder though which was a rarity for the Indian team in 90’s. Along with Robin Singh, Jadeja was the other agile fielder that provided superior fielding luxury to the team.
Typically coming in to bat in the later stages of an ODI inning, Ajay Jadeja played many vital knocks in the blue jersey. His ODI records stand at a respectable batting average of 37.47 in 196 matches. He scored 6 ODI centuries and 30 half-centuries to go with 20 wickets as a part-time medium pace bowler.
In the year 2000, Match-fixing scandal broke out in India and Ajay Jadeja was one of the suspects. He was banned for five years which effectively ended his career. His ban was overturned after 3 years since there were no definite proofs against him but the cricket board had no sympathy for him.
Ajay Jadeja however, played domestic cricket after that. He even featured as a captain in the last first-class match of Sachin Tendulkar’s career in 2013. Jadeja later took up the role of cricket expert and also is involved in cricket commentary.
The all-rounder tried his hand at Bollywood also as he acted in a movie ‘Khel” with other leading Bollywood actors but the enterprise failed and Jadeja returned to cricket.
As Ajay Jadeja celebrates his 47th birthday, Indian cricket followers still look at the talent of this man, his shrewd cricket sense and wonder what could have been.
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