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Chennai Super Kings' Ravindra Jadeja celebrates after taking the wicket of Kolkata Knight Riders' Venkatesh Iyer in Chennai on Monday. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: One of the key reasons for Chennai Super Kings to maintain an impeccable record at their home ground in Chepauk Stadium in the past 11 seasons of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been Ravindra Jadeja.

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The spinner, who joined Chennai in 2014, has made the venue an impenetrable fortress for the opponents. The 35-year-old has been an integral part of Super Kings’ success and the unique record he achieved on Monday is a testimony to the all-rounder’s untiring efforts towards his team.

Jadeja became the first player in IPL with at least 100 catches, 1,000 runs and 100 wickets. Jadeja took two catches, including a sharp chance off Phil Salt of the first ball, to reach the 100-catch mark. Jadeja is Super King’s second-highest wicket-taker with 125 wickets, behind West Indian great and current bowling coach Dwayne Bravo (140). For the record Jadeja has taken 156 wickets and made 2,776 runs in the IPL.

The 35-year-old joins Virat Kohli (110), Suresh Raina (109), Kieron Pollard (103) and Rohit Sharma (100) for most catches by a fielder in the IPL.

Roller-coaster ride at Chennai

“I don’t count my catches,” he said during the mid-innings break.

Sir Jadeja, as he is known to cricket fans across the world, has had the ups and downs during the roller-coaster ride with the Yellove. He was upset with the fans when they wanted former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to come and bat instead of him, while he was unceremoniously dumped as the skipper in 2022 midway through the season. But that didn’t affect him or his performance and worked his way to completely restore and regain the full faith of the fans. It has now reached a new high after he earned a new title that’s been endorsed by the Chennai outfit.

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Jadeja celebrates a wicket with Chennai players during their easy win over Kolkata. The all-rounder achieved a unique feat in IPL on Monday. Image Credit: AFP

After the match against Kolkata Knight Riders, Jadeja, while talking to Harsha Bhogle during the prize presentation ceremony, expressed his disappointment that he hasn’t got a special title from the fans after Dhoni, who was affectionately called Thala (leader), and former Chennai star Raina, who had the sobriquet as Chinna Thala (deputy leader).

“My title hasn’t yet been verified, hopefully they’ll give me one,” Jadeja said after Bhogle suggesting the name Cricket Thalapathy (Cricket Lieutenant). Bhogle took to X to ask fans are you going to give Jadeja the verification for Cricket Thalapathy? The Super Kings endorsed that with another post saying that verified as Cricket Thalapathy and Jadeja thanked Bhogle for aiding him to get a nickname, which helps him go even closer to the Whistle Podu fans.

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Hitting the right areas at the right pace

Jadeja has been a trusted lieutenant for Dhoni and now for the new skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad. The left-arm spinner turned the match on its head against Kolkata on Monday in his first over. He finished with a three-wicket haul in eight deliveries in a sensational spell to restrict Kolkata to a sub-par score of 137 for nine, which the hosts chased with ease.

What makes Jadeja such a threat, especially at home?

His knowledge of the pitch conditions allows him to hit the right areas and also has the advantage of varying his pace accordingly. “I always enjoy bowling on this track. I was hoping the ball grips a little, if you bowl in the right areas it helps you. For visiting teams it takes time to settle in and plan, you hardly get 2-3 days, for a visiting team to come here, play and identify the surface is little difficult. We know our conditions better,” Jadeja told the official broadcasters during the presentation ceremony after being named the player of the match. “My plan was just to bowl in good areas. I have practised a lot here and if you bowl in good areas it will definitely assist you.”

Jadeja returning to his best will be a good news for Team India ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup, which will begin on June 1 — days after the final of the IPL Season 17 in Chennai on May 26. The left-hander has some useful knocks behind him this season after coming in during different stages of the innings.

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Ravindra Jadeja is the second highest wicket-taker for Chennai Super Kings after Dwayne Bravo. Image Credit: AFP

Great head space

Gaikwad, who scored his first half-century as a captain, heaped praise on the all-rounder. “Jaddu always comes in after the power play to give the momentum. With this team, I don’t really need to tell things to anyone. Everyone’s in a great head space, Mahi bhai and Fleming are still around to take those calls,” said the opener, who remained unbeaten 67 to guide the hosts home in the company of Dhoni.

Irrespective of what’s happening on the field, the Saurashtra star doesn’t hesitate to have fun on and off the field. He has had several banters with his rivals, and the recent one with Ishant Sharma became the hot topic on X. Jadeja doesn’t even spare his wife Rivaba and the cheeky post on social media left the fans in splits.

Similarly, when the fans were waiting for Dhoni to step in to bat for the first time at home this season after the fall of the Shivam Dube’s wicket against Kolkata, Jadeja was seen stepping out, momentarily leaving the fans unhappy. But the all-rounder turned back to the dugout to bring out a deafening cheer from the Chepauk crowd.

For now Chennai fans must be hoping that Jadeja continues to find his rhythm as the dry wickets across India will suit him more.