In the last 15 years of my stay away from India many things have happened there. In India, many things happen in 15 seconds but that would be belaboring the point. One of those many things to have happened is the cricketer Ravindra Jadeja. He is currently India’s cricketer with the most swagga.
I hear about him frequently, mostly about his rather uninhibited personality on the field. Jokes about him abound in India’s cricket folklore. Jadeja, it seems, is a meme that keeps on giving. For reasons I do not fully understand he is known as “the Sir.” It is a knighthood bestowed upon him by the Indian public which has made sure by adding the definite article before “Sir” that there is no ambiguity in what they mean.
Jadeja belongs to Rajkot, the city from which my family hails. I have lived in Rajkot and studied at the respected Saurashtra High School without once finding out why it was respected. I understand the Kathiawadi culture, one of whose many attributes is the great tradition of rebelliousness. Kathiawadi folklore is full of gallant renegades inspired by the wish to right many social wrongs. The sword was often the preferred weapon of choice of these renegades who saw themselves as reformers. Belonging to the historically martial Rajput clan, Jadeja has probably grown up being taught how to ceremoniously swing and slash a sword.
It is a move that has caught the popular imagination during the current Test series between India and England in England. The other day, Jadeja scored his first half century in test cricket at Lord’s. Lord’s cricket ground in London is regarded as the ultimate in prestige for the game that began as a pastime for indolent English lords harrumphing and politely clapping from the sidelines. I digress. Jadeja celebrated his 50 by doing his trademark sword slashing move, which incidentally I can do rather well.
I have watched a few videos of Jadeja batting, bowling and fielding. There is a certain aggressive showmanship to his persona that draws a large number of admirers to him. Looking at him one gets the sense that in an earlier era he would have fit among the swashbuckling renegades of Saurashtra riding their horses, out to right many social wrongs. He seems to have that temperament. I am not sure about the quality of his cricket but there appears to be a bit of a flash in the pan touch to it. In an earlier era, the Charans of Saurashtra might have penned a few ballads about a character like Jadeja which were full of mythologized overstatement about his virtues. Watching him contemporaneously does show ingredients to his personalities that lend themselves to such mythologizing.