ICC World Cup 2019 | From Bits and Pieces to Priceless - Jadeja's Whirlwind Week

Manchester: Ravindra Jadeja flicked James Neesham to the on side and hared back for the second run. He jogged on further after completing the brace, before pausing in the direction of the Indian dressing room.

He then unleashed the Talwar, twirling his bat effortlessly like a sword. As he turned back to get back to his position, he paused again. This time, he looked further above the dressing room, at the commentators’ box and spread his arms wide. Every single person in the ground and beyond knew what he was signaling “Call me a bits and pieces cricketer now, Sanjay Manjrekar?”

Bits and pieces.

Ever since the Jadeja vs Manjrekar battle began, I’ve been wondering if the phrase is too negative to be used as an adjective to describe a cricketer. How would I feel if someone said I’m a ‘bits and pieces’ writer? How would you feel if someone said you’re ‘bits and pieces’ at whatever you do?

Cricketers, sportsmen and artists are subject to criticism of course, but phrases like bits and pieces, clearly used in a negative connotation, have become mainstream. Perhaps there are alternatives.

Manjrekar might not even have meant to hurt Jadeja when he first described him as a ‘bits and pieces’ cricketer – he was just doing his job as an analyst. But it’s also not right to expect cricketers to understand the nuances, especially when they’ve heard a negative comment for no apparent reason. Jadeja hadn’t even played a game in the World Cup at that point.

Responding to a question on how players deal with criticism, Rohit Sharma said each player deals with it in a different way but stressed that ‘constant yapping’ – without mentioning Manjrekar – was not right.

It’s easy to visualise Jadeja reading a comment – which he perceived as negative – on him out of the blue and taking the easiest option as a retort. ‘How much cricket have you played?’

Since Jadeja’s public outburst, it almost became a personal battle. Jadeja had a decent game against Sri Lanka, but Manjrekar yet again said he wouldn’t pick him in his side for the semifinal. He then explained why, plucking out stats of India’s spinners against New Zealand.

It’s hard to view this as ‘analysis’ – the original bits and pieces comment was – as Jadeja had last played an ODI against New Zealand in 2014. Surely, Manjrekar would have known that those numbers aren’t exactly reflective of the current scenario?

Or the fact that Kuldeep Yadav wasn’t having a great World Cup having picked only six wickets in seven matches. If Kuldeep isn’t picking wickets, India might as well play Jadeja to strengthen their batting and fielding.

Negative or positive, calling Jadeja a bits and pieces cricketer is also doing injustice to his steady improvement since his comeback last September. With the ball, he has been steady as always. He has two four-wicket hauls and one three-wicket haul, and generally been the bowler he has been.

The bigger improvement is in his batting. It’s the last one year in which he has finally realised his potential as a batsman. It began with an 86* in the only Test he played in the England tour. He followed it up with his maiden Test ton, against West Indies in Rajkot. He hit another 81 against Australia in Sydney.

In ODIs too, Jadeja played a couple of handy, mature knocks lower down the order in the Asia Cup. He scored 54 against New Zealand in the World Cup warm-up after India were reeling at 37 for 4. There was evidence to show Jadeja isn’t just bits and pieces. Perhaps that’s why he was hurt and burst out on twitter.

But what better way to answer critics than on the field? Jadeja did that in style against New Zealand. First with a spell of 1 for 34 in 10 overs on Day 1 of the One-Day International. Day 2 began with Jadeja running out Ross Taylor with a direct hit from the deep, and taking a brilliant catch to send back Tom Latham very next ball. Bowling bit – check. Fielding bit – double check.

And then came the best of all – the batting bit.

Jadeja walked in at 92 for 6, still a mountain left to climb. He had seen two batsmen giving their wickets away to big shots, so attacking immediately might not have been a great idea. There was only Bhuvneshwar Kumar to come. Yet, he had to keep India going.

He took five balls to settle down, and then danced out to smash Neesham over wide long-on. From there, he steadily raised India’s hopes. Mitchell Santner’s first spell read 6-2-7-2, but Jadeja took him on too, hitting a couple of sixes.

Jadeja just seemed like a man with intent, all fired up right from the outset. It helped that he had the company of MS Dhoni. If at all there is a man who knows Jadeja in and out, it’s the former India captain.

Dhoni would give him strike, and instruct Jadeja what to do. When Jadeja seemed to get carried away with his celebration, Dhoni would ask him to refocus. Together, they got India as close as they could. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Two years back, Jadeja went back from England as villain after running out Hardik Pandya in the Champions Trophy final. Now, despite the loss, he’ll return a hero.

“I don’t think any of us had to say anything to Jadeja after what happened over the last one week. He was quite ready to just get on to the park, to be honest,” Kohli smiled.

“And you saw the passion with which he played and we have seen it in Test cricket a few times, he’s played knocks under tremendous pressure and he’s got three triple hundreds in first class cricket if I’m not wrong, so the talent has obviously always been there.

“And in my watching Jadeja for ten years, me playing with him as well, this is probably his top quality, like best knock according to me because of the kind of pressure, the stage we are at – almost out of the game and then he produces that. I’m really happy for him because he’s been a very understated cricketer but a top quality cricketer for India in the field, with the ball, with the bat. Priceless.”

From ‘bits and pieces’ to ‘priceless’. It’s been quite a week for Jadeja, and even Manjrekar had to take note.

“Bits and by pieces, he just ripped me apart today. Bits and by pieces of sheer brilliance, he proved me wrong on all fronts,” he told the host broadcasters.