dogs in the last few years. But these days, he is hooked to horses. Ganga and Kesar to be specific. As he lovingly pats the dark-skinned Ganga’s forehead, you ask: “Did you have pets as a child?” With a smile he replies, “Apne khane ka thikana nahi tha, in logon ko kahan palta? (We didn’t know where our meals were coming from, how would I have kept pets?)”
He changes track quickly, points to a lone white dove flying across the field in the distant horizon. “That’s where my land ends. Cotton is being grown on the last bed. The one close to us has groundnuts with mango and guava trees standing over them. And between the two, we grow the feed for the horses,” he says, before he slips back to talking about the past. “There were times when I had to manage the entire day with just Rs 10 in my pocket. When playing matches away from home, where you even had to buy water, it used to get tough,” he says. Defiantly, he adds: “I can still survive on a bare minimum. I am not fussy about what I eat or wear.” To stress the point, the DKNY shades move from the eyes to his hands. “Cricket has given me a lot. If I earn enough, why shouldn’t I spend?”
Very early in life, Jadeja realised cricket was a wise investment and would get him things he yearned for. He would play “winners take all” games where the better team would take home the kitty formed by the equal contribution from all 22 players. Most times, the winning XI would share Rs 22 and Jadeja would double his investment. The dividend would be enough to get him several long polythene flutes filled with iced water. He loved them. “That was our Pepsi,” he says with a smile.
When he failed to convince his father to part with the one-rupee he needed to be part of the matches, he would rush to the nurse station at the government hospital where his mother worked. “She would never refuse,” says Jadeja. Naina says