Nagpur: Ahead of the first Test against Australia, which begins in Nagpur on Thursday, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja said he was blessed to get a chance to play for the national team again.
Jadeja had been out of action after undergoing surgery in his right knee last September and had to pull out midway through the Asia Cup in the UAE.
"Very excited and feels really great that after more than five months, I am wearing an Indian jersey and I've been very blessed that I am getting a chance to play for India again. The journey was a bit of up and down one as if you are out of cricket for five months, then it becomes a little bit. I was eagerly awaiting that when I will get fit and get to play for India," said Jadeja in a video posted by the Board of Control for Cricket in India on its social media handles.
The rescheduled fifth Test against England at Birmingham in July, 2022, was the last time Jadeja played a Test.
The left-arm spinner explained the decision to undergo surgery on his right knee. "Somewhere I was struggling with the knee and had to undergo surgery. But I had to take a decision on whether I had to do it before or after the (T20) World Cup."
"The doctor had also advised me to do it before the World Cup because there was very less chance to play the World Cup if I hadn't gone under the knife. I then made up my mind to go for the surgery, but the period after that was very tough as rehab and training there, you have to do it constantly."
The right knee surgery meant Jadeja missed out on the T20 World Cup, tours of New Zealand and Bangladesh as well as home series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand. For the Bangladesh tour, he was named in the squads, but it was subject to fitness and was subsequently ruled out.
Jadeja gave a peek into thoughts during the rehab phase and how physiotherapists as well as trainers at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) helped him get back to full fitness. "At times, you get thoughts in your mind like 'when will I be fit or when I would not be fit'. When you watch a match on TV, like the (T20) World Cup, then it started to make me realise I wish I was there'. So, all of those thoughts come into the mind, but those small things also motivate you that you have to do the rehab well to get back into the side, go through your training and strengthen the knee to get back into the side as soon as possible."
"Physios and the trainers at the NCA worked a lot on my knee. They gave me so much time and even if it was off on Sundays at the NCA, they would especially come and treat me. They have worked a lot on me. Like, for two, three weeks, I used to be in Bangalore (Bengaluru), then I would go back home to freshen up my mind."
"I was like that I have to be as much in Bangalore as possible so that it helps me in my faster recovery. But two months post the injury was very tough as I wasn't able to walk or go somewhere. So, that time was very critical and in this phase, my friends, and family were always there for me."
"The physios and trainers at the NCA were boosting my confidence too. Like, I used to say that there is some pain or discomfort to me, they would say 'Do it for the country, do it for you'. They used to say all these talks to motivate me and I felt really good that they were very serious about my knee, and wanted me to get fit and play for the team as quickly as possible and win matches for them."
Jadeja's comeback to competitive cricket came when he played for Saurashtra in their final group-stage Ranji Trophy match against Tamil Nadu in Chennai. In that match, Jadeja bowled 41.1 overs and bagged a seven-for in the second innings, which resulted in him getting back the confidence he needed as a player after spending a long time on the sidelines, away from the game.
"The first day I went to the ground, I felt a little awkward as I hadn't gone into the sun for five months as it was indoor training and gym all the time. I had doubts that whether I will be able to sustain myself with my body in 90 hours of play. But the first day was very tough and Chennai's heat is known to all."
"Slowly, my body got used to it as the days progressed. But after playing the match, I felt that yes, I am fit and can play four-five days of cricket. Luckily, the game went well, I got wickets too and confidence too ahead of playing a big tournament as a player. Right now, I am happy that I am back here for the preparation and hopefully, touchwood, that everything from here will be great."