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An Exclusive Interview With Sheldon Jackson - Insights, Stories and Life Lessons

Sheldon Jackson has been one of the prolific run-getters for Saurashtra over the years and has been at the heart of their exponential rise in the domestic circuit.

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Interview with Sheldon Jackson
Interview with Sheldon Jackson
India's domestic circuit has served as a seminary for numerous virtuosos. Ones who have gone on to cast perpetual spells over cricket aficionados across the world alike and thereby have found a place in the cricketing folklore.

Trying by nature, the domestic circuit in India has bore witness to players determined to give their all despite of dodgy hamstrings, fractured joints, sore calves and a constantly ringing ear - a result of a barrage of volleys being hurled from a highly sociable slip cordon. And to everyone's amazement all of it and more happens far away from the grandiloquent razzmatazz that typifies international cricket.

The domestic arena in India serves as an epic coliseum where athletes across age groups size each other up in a bid to get to the prying eyes. The sheer volume of the talent pool is of such gargantuan proportion that it makes the domestic set-up of certain countries seem extremely minuscule. As per BCCI, India's 2018-19 domestic season saw as many as 6,471 players chance their fate to make it to the apex level.

And while the aforementioned numbers themselves give a cue about the unsparing competition, the sheer weight of bewitching talent up for exhibition in these Indic lanes is only felt by many when it is put into perspective by a foreign superstar.

“India is the most talented team in the world. Hands down. The players not playing are way more talented than me,” said Marcus Stoinis (while highlighting the depth of talent present in Indian cricket) in The Test (a documentary based on the Australian cricket team).

There is a reason why these foreign superstars have formed such an opinion. The coliseum mentioned earlier doesn't only serve as a terrific launchpad for budding talent to put its repertoire on display. But at the same time it also acts as a testament to countless dreams that die a gradual death.

Someone who manages to eclipse the rest in this awe-inspiring hustle by his unswerving intent finds his name being discussed in the upper echelons of the administration.

Once that happens countless tongues with every successful season start talking him up, 'hey, there's an India call-up round the corner'. Consequently, he starts sweating it out to an extent that even his 13-year-old self would have denied to fathom.

He succeeds in travelling places (in terms of his game) where he feels indomitable. Few years ago he was good enough to dictate terms to bowlers who had a made a name for themselves in the domestic circuit through painstaking effort.

But, now even India players, the ones plagued by poor form but frothing at their mouth to make a comeback find themselves at the receiving end of his artistry.

His purple patch makes him feel at the top of his powers and in control of the situation everytime he walks on to the field of play. The wicketkeeper behind him who was there when he made his debut for the state is still around five years later to accompany him at the crease.

But there's a substantial difference, five years ago while walking out to bat there would be an air of nervousness around him and despite hitting a cluster of boundaries up front the chatter around him just wouldn't subside. And now even one sweetly timed cover drive penetrating the in-field is enough to put the cacophony to rest.

But despite being one of the names topping the charts every season the elusive India call-up is still nowhere in the vicinity and his tireless effort continues in search of the same.

The Indian domestic circuit is home to many such unsung players and will continue to be. This interview too is about one such player who has been doing the hard yards in the domestic circuit since his first class debut in 2011 and continues to find reasons to flourish - Sheldon Jackson.

In a candid chat with CricTracker, Sheldon talks about his cricketing odyssey, Saurashtra's recent Ranji Trophy triumph, his multiple IPL stints, lowest point of his career and so much more. 


What do you think led to Saurashtra clinching the Ranji Trophy title this year?

We were extremely disciplined to begin with and operated with a clear goal in mind and that's what ultimately helped. I truly feel that all the players who are playing for Saurashtra are very highly skilled and we are such a side that has players for mostly all conditions.

Only if you leave out Arpit Vasavada who has done well in all conditions and hence scored 900 odd runs, if you see, me, Chirag Jaani, we all aggregated somewhere around 600-650 runs so that's why I feel we had very skilled players who knew their roles to perfection and had ample experience leading into the season.

Even our youngsters, Harvik Desai for that matter had 30-35 matches under his belt and had played enough crunch games which helped us as a bunch to succeed. Our players had understanding of what was needed from them and they managed to put the team above everything else and that played a crucial role.

What were the challenges that you guys faced as a bunch during the entire Ranji Trophy campaign?

I don't want to sound very rude or arrogant about this but I think we were only outplayed in one match and that was against Andhra when Andhra beat us at home (Elite, Group B match).

Besides that, we also felt challenged against Punjab and I think the Punjab match was a miracle from where we won and how we won it. It was a result of one player's brilliant effort (Parth Bhut) in both the innings with the bat and ball. The punjab side challenged us in every department.

Can we really say that Saurashtra have now become a force to be reckoned with?

Saurashtra have been doing very well for the last ten years. If I'm not wrong we've played seven to eight finals (in the last decade) that means every second year or every one and a half year we are playing a final and out of that we have won three and lost I think four.

So, Saurashtra in the last ten years have become a force, it's just that people have started accepting it now. Before that I think people used to think ki haan chalo yaar ek baar ho gaya (Alright, it's just a one time wonder).

They didn't consider us a force or a dominant side but after this win (Ranji Trophy triumph), I've  seen legends of the game tweeting and acknowledging Saurashtra as a force which for me as a player who's been there in Saurshtra's cricketing circles for so long feels really satisfying to see.

You were the Player of the Match in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2022 finals against Maharashtra. Kindly talk us through your innings?

So, throughout that tournament I got one hundred, one fifty and few thirties here and there. Before that innings (hundred in the final) I had spoken to one of my coaches. I said, "sir, I'm a little low on confidence I know it's bound to happen but I'm not scoring runs and still getting an opportunity to play. How do I take this game from here?"

He gave me confidence and told me to just focus on the next delivery and I just followed that. I played every ball to its merit till I didn't get my eyes in. When you are going through a lean patch and manage to hit two balls from the middle of the bat and see them pierce the gap, suddenly the confidence comes roaring back. 

Luckily for me that happened and I won't say it happened very early in the innings but it happened around the 25th or 30th ball of my innings (in the final) and I started getting that confidence back.

I started moving decently well and from there I didn't want to give it away. I wanted to make the most out of it and to be honest we were not chasing a big target. So I even had the luxury of time with me for that innings because our bowlers had done really well to restrict them to 248. I didn't feel any rush of blood or anything.

You don't get such opportunities in your life many times to become the hero of the final and to win your state a prestigious tournament. Hence, during my innings I kept telling myself that now you are set and just take the team as close as possible and god willing I did it and was very satisfied and very happy after that

How did your initial IPL stint with Royal Challengers Bangalore pan out?

2013 was my first year in the IPL and that time I was very raw. It was also my first year in domestic cricket and hence was very raw in every way - in terms of my game, my personality among others. I joined the RCB camp and I saw Virat Kohli, I saw AB (de Villiers), Chris Gayle and all the legends of the game.

Even by just looking at Virat Kohli I realised that I'm not even worthy to be called a cricketer. The sacrifices he made, the efforts he was putting on and off the field. For me, it was the first time that I saw something like that so it was a very new learning curve for me.

Before that I had nothing to do with fitness, literally nothing and after that I can say that my entire cricketing life changed. I saw Virat then, he was already at the peak of his game, he was dominating world cricket. For a man who was dominating world cricket and to get to see his work ethics from close quarters was just amazing and I learnt a lot from my time at RCB. 

Despite scoring runs consistently in the domestic circuit, you couldn't replicate the same rich vein of form in the IPL while playing for Kolkata Knight Riders. What do you think were the reasons behind the same?

It was me. There's no other reason that I would like to pinpoint. I could have been a lot smarter been a lot more prepared for the slots that I was batting in. There are no excuses here. I failed to deliver. When I get success I take full credit similarly when I fail I take full credit.

Many people tell me that I was batting out of order. That's their point but my point is that I got an opportunity and I'm thankful to KKR for giving me such opportunity. I could not make the most out of it and I'll  live with it. You have to make peace with it because that's how the game is.

In September 2019 you put out a tweet that read, "I'm told not to question but I strongly believe that we represent this beautiful organization and association and we as players surely deserve to know why and where we lack or else our careers are just going to end wondering why, and selection should be transparent." When you say transparent what exactly do you mean by that and has the mechanism of selection improved according to you since then?

I don't wanna talk about selection anymore to be honest because I have already said whatever I had to say. As far as transparency is concerned, I think it will change with time. But the other thing is that I've said it before and I'm still saying it that we are spoiled with choices. We have so much of talent that many times performances just go unnoticed and you cannot do anything about it.

Despite getting ignored by selectors how do you still find the motivation of going out on the field and giving your best day in day out?

I think the answer lies in your question. I think if I go out and I keep scoring then that gives me a certain joy as I manage to prove people wrong.

 I believe that age has nothing to do with the sport, at any age you can play at any level. It has nothing to do with the sport as long as you are fit for the sport so that motivates me. I can say rejection and failure keep motivating me. The more I get rejected and more I fail the more it motivates me.

How has been the support from your family?

My family has contributed immensely and they have played a pivotal role in helping me grow as a professional. They have always been there for me throughout the trying times and it has worked wonders for me. In addition to that, I am also highly grateful to the income tax department. I work for them and I can't thank them enough for their constant support.

What according to you has been the lowest point in your career?

Definitely not doing well in the IPL. I had worked very hard for those opportunities. I had worked very hard to make my come back to the league. But after not doing well at that time I kind of felt like a failure. I felt like the sport was betraying me and that time was the lowest point of my life. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I didn't  want to see anyone.

Is the goal of playing for India one day still strong enough? 

The goal is never gonna die till the time I'm playing. It's always gonna be there. Whether you achieve that or not is secondary but the goal is always to play for the country.

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