As the third edition of the lucrative Indian Premier League of the Board of Control for Cricket in India gathers momentum, inaugural champions Rajasthan Royals give the impression of missing Ravindra Jadeja. The young cricketer, who is in fine form and fit as a fiddle, has no other option but to watch the agony and ecstasy of his teammates from beyond the boundary without being of any help.
Poor Jadeja. He dared negotiate outside his contract with Rajasthan Royals for a better, handsome pay package, but the secret came out somehow, and he had to face the consequences for breaching the IPL guidelines fixed for every player regardless of his status.
In no time the IPL slapped a one-year ban on him and out went Rajasthan Royals' star all-rounder for the current season.
Jadeja's explanation to the BCCI that he decided to negotiate with other franchises after he did not receive any indication from Rajasthan Royals whether they were interested in renewing his contract, which expired on December 31, was all but convincing. He may even have sought the BCCI approval before taking such a dangerous step, but the fact remains that he was never given permission.
Be that as it may, a majority view is that the punishment inflicted on Jadeja is too severe. Many feel that the best course of action for the BCCI was to let him off with a strict warning only, considering his young age and lack of experience. Such a gesture would have enhanced the BCCI's image in the public eye. But it is perhaps too much to expect leniency from an increasingly authoritarian body.
"I tried to plead Jadeja's case and even asked the BCCI president, Shashank Manohar, to reduce his punishment as it's his first offence. But the IPL rules are very strict and they apply to one and all. He is very young and inexperienced and probably didn't know what he was doing. Maybe he wasn't aware of the rules and regulations as well as guidelines," IPL vice-chairman Niranjan Shah, who is also the secretary of Saurashtra Cricket Association, told rediff.com.
"I've full sympathy for Jadeja, not just because he hails from and plays for Saurashtra. I'm sure he'll be better off with this experience. I can understand his plight. But he shouldn't lose heart. He is a fast rising all-rounder. His talents and performances have made him an important member of India's one-day team. He'll definitely play in the next IPL season. I think there is a lesson for all youngsters in the Jadeja episode. They should be careful about whatever they do in future."
Mention must be made of the magnanimity of both Rajasthan Royals and its Australian captain, Shane Warne. Despite Jadeja allegedly trying to change allegiance by negotiating with other franchises, Rajasthan Royals stood by him and even asked the IPL bigwigs to revoke the ban. Instead of speaking a word against him, Warne continues to praise his 'Rock Star', the nickname he has given Jadeja.
A pall of gloom is prevailing in the Jadeja home in Jamnagar in the wake of his omission from the ongoing tournament.
"We all are very disappointed. The shocking news came just when we were looking forward to seeing him set the IPL ablaze following his impressive performance in the recent One-Day Internationals. I think he was probably not aware of the rules and regulations and made an innocent mistake. But he didn't deserve to be punished so severely," Jadeja's sister Naina told rediff.com.
"I strongly feel the authorities concerned should have taken his age into account before imposing a one-year ban on him. No, he hasn't told us anything. Nor do we ask him anything about whatever has happened and put him into an embarrassing situation. We don't want to make him unhappier and disturb him further. But often his body language suggests how disappointed he is with himself."
Jadeja's curious case exposes the inscrutable ways of the BCCI, which has found a new money-spinner in the IPL. The BCCI has a history of handing out harsher punishment to players like Jadeja and letting off serious offenders with a token punishment.
Why, there were cases when the BCCI allowed such offenders escape scot-free for want of evidence or intention.
Not long ago, Ambati Rayudu, Rohan Gavaskar and others of their ilk had deserted their respective associations and joined the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL). Now that the ICL has wound up its circus and released these players and done away with their contracts, they are parading their skills in the IPL thanks to the BCCI's generosity.
But the same BCCI is not at all generous towards a budding and enormously gifted player like Jadeja.