“Debu Mitra sir has played the biggest role in my career. He has worked really hard on my game. Even, after the match, he asks me to shadow practice. Tells me ki yeh karna hai. My mindset has changed a lot”.
This quote is from Saurashtra batsman Sheldon Jackson, who struck 107 against Punjab in the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy semi-final in Rajkot.
Jackson is brown eyed, is shy and reserved, and needed prodding to open up to Yahoo! Cricket on his journey so far as a cricketer. The 26-year old from Bhavnagar bats within himself, and has his size 9 boots firmly on the ground, as he basks in the glory of his third first class hundred in front of a crowd that also had chairman of selectors Sandeep Patil in attendance.
“I am happy for getting a ton. One doesn’t get hundreds everyday. Hope it will help the team”. But life wasn’t easy.
Jackson lost his father when he was 10. Off the three tattoos that he sports, the one on his left is dedicated to his father Philip and mother Sederene. Like most Indian children, he too started playing cricket with the tennis ball, before his uncle Lester Bell spotted something special, and sent him over to Sir Bhavsinhji Cricket Club in Bhavnagar to learn the game. Their coach N.C Goel noticed that the young chap wasn’t afraid of the cricket ball. But he has someone to thank first for the bat that helped him get noticed.
“Uncle Bell got me my first bat and also my first kit. I owe him and Aunt Jennifer a lot”, the nephew says in gratitude.
But the lad is actually a wicket-keeper, and he got the opportunity to pad up and keep at the club, when the regular glovesman failed to turn up. As the story goes, he was asked to step in, and after that he never looked back. The youngster went to Silver Bells school, and soon progressed to age-group cricket for Saurashtra, starting with the U-14 side and soon made it to the senior side when he was just 20.
Then came the bench.
“I came in as a kid. The batting order was packed. To get even one match was hard. When I got a chance I failed. But my first-class debut against Railways in 2011 was special, though I managed just 39. With God’s grace I performed this year.” he recollects, eyes shrinking.
It was only in 2012 that Jackson managed to play regularly for Saurashtra. He has a compact stance, elbow jutting out, plays late and can judge the ball well. Be it spin or pace. Driven as a human being, the right-hander can also drive the cricket ball, with the five bats he uses in a year, with a follow through that can bring 10 fingers together. He insists however, that the cut short is his favourite.
“No stickers on the bat. Sab boltay hain kyun bekaar main. Wait. Don’t write that”, he says with a grin.
Jackson goes on to talk about his first ton against Bengal at home. 118 runs that gave him the happiest moments of life. “It came when the team needed it the most”, he adds, before looking away to applaud a shot that his teammate Kamlesh Makvana played.
“Ravindra Jadeja, Jaydev Shah, Cheteshwar Pujara and Shitanshu Kotak give me a lot of advice. Mr. Niranjan Shah never says no. We train and play here at the Saurashtra Cricket Stadium. There is everything here. This place is home”.
But he is realistic about his dreams, “Yes. I too want to play for India. But I prefer to take life one match at a time. Everyone is not so fortunate enough’.
When asked about Jackson, coach Debu Mitra reveals that his ward is a quick learner, “His performance speaks for itself. That itself is enough. People take years to learn what I tell them. Sheldon took just two years”, he says of the lad who got an academy contract with the Kolkata Knight Riders in 2009.
“I have faith in God but I am not superstitious. My family is supportive. I am happy that my mother never forced me to choose between cricket and studies. But I am doing my BBA from KPS College in Bhavnagar. I still have one more semester to clear”, he says before shaking hands.
If he makes full use of the opportunities that will come his way, his scores should be more than just first-class. The ones from his bat that is.
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