No Rule That You Can’t Play For India At 36, Says Sheldon Jackson, Saurashtra Hero At Vijay Hazare Finals

New Delhi: “In the entire tournament, I was getting good starts but unfortunately I was not able to score big,” said Saurashtra’s hero Sheldon Jackson who scored a match-winning knock of 133 off 136 balls against the mighty bowling attack of Maharashtra in the finale of the Vijay Hazare Trophy on Friday. 

His extraordinary innings helped Saurashtra win the match by 5 wickets. It was Saurashtra’s second title victory in history. With the ball, Chirag Jani scalped the wickets of Saurabh Nawale, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, and Vicky Ostwal to complete a hat-trick.

“I got 23 not out, 56 not out. Out of all these innings, the only confidence that I got was 56 that I scored against Himachal Pradesh. That was the innings in which I batted the way I wanted to. And then I was asked to open the innings when Pujara got India’s call. The skipper came to me and said you will open the innings. Since this was for the team’s benefit, I said no problem, I will open it. That was the big decision because I have not opened the innings in Vijay Hazare for quite a while now,” Jackson stated in an exclusive conversation with ABP Live. 

It was because of the solid partnership of 125 runs between Jackson and Harvik that Saurashtra was able to chase the 249-run total. Earlier, Maharashtra managed to post 248/9 after being asked to bat first. They witnessed a third successive century from their skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad as he scored 108 runs off 131 deliveries, with seven fours and four sixes, in the final against Saurashtra.

“It’s a different feeling when the team wins because of your innings. You feel very satisfied. To be very honest, the team did not win only because of me, we won because every member of the team contributed. Someone performed in the first match, somebody did well in the second match and I did well in the finals. So it was a collective team effort,” said the Saurashtra senior after playing a blinder of an innings.

‘I Just Pray That Someone Takes Notice Of My Performances’

Jackson also talked about his family and confided that his family has always been very supportive of him. They never discouraged him even If he was not performing well. He said his family, especially his mother and his wife, always supported him. Instead of asking why he was not performing well, he said, they would say “no problem, next time”. “It’s very important for a sportsperson to get that sort of support,” Jackson said. 

“I started playing professional cricket in Saurashtra only. I represented U-14 and then gradually I came up the ranks. My family has always been very supportive of me. They never de-spirited me whenever I am not performing well.”

Jackson is 36 now, but he still aspires to don that Blue jersey. “Playing for India is not in my hands. But all I can say is that there is no rule that whether you are 36, 76, or just 6. If you can pick the cricket rule book, there is no such rule that one cannot play because of their age. It is the hype that was created by the people. If people can make the rule, they can break the rule also.  So I just leave my answer there. I just pray that someone takes notice of my performances,” he said.

‘When A Captain Backs You, It Becomes Easy To Perform’

Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Unadkat’s record as a skipper is impeccable. Even as a bowler, he picked up 19 wickets in the tournament. Under his captaincy, Saurashtra sealed the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Jackson spoke about Unadkat’s captaincy skills and said his decision-making skills are brilliant. Unadkat’s main quality, he said, is that he always backs the players, no matter what.

“Even though I am a senior player and however good I am as a batsman, at some point in time I need some sort of backing when I am feeling down or I am not performing and at that time it’s very easy to raise a finger. But in Jaydev Unadkat’s case, it does not work like that, he always backs me. Whether the team is winning or losing, he is always there to back us. When a captain backs you so much, it becomes easy for you to perform and you want to play for that captain,” Jackson said. 

“Even in my post-match interview, I stated that I am grateful to him and my association for always backing me and not putting any pressure. Otherwise, it’s very easy for them to take a call if you are not performing well, this could be your last match or last season.”

Jackson also spoke about the comparison between the two stalwart skippers of Saurashtra cricket. 

“Jaydev Unadkat and Jaydev Shah both are the ultimate leaders of Saurashtra cricket. Jaydev Shah is the man who made the team and taught us to win matches. Under his leadership, we played four finals, out of that we won one and lost three. I always feel that the captain is as good as his team. We are lucky to have skippers like them. And they are lucky to have a team like us, it works both ways.”

Sheldon Jackson’s record while playing for Saurashtra is something to flaunt. In the 80 First Class matches that he has played, he has amassed 6,020 runs at an average of 50.16. He has also played 77 List-A games in which he scored 2,643 runs. In 77 T20Is, he made 1,690 runs. The records speak for him. 

Speaking to ABP Live, the right-hand batter also discussed his IPL journey with Kolkata Knight Riders. “They did not retain me because I could not perform that well. If I had performed with the bat, they would have retained me. Had I batted a little higher, maybe I could have had a little more impact with the bat. At the end of the day, you have to accept your failure. But then, no one knew that I can keep wickets and the world saw my wicket-keeping finesse. Even Sachin (Tendulkar) sir tweeted regarding this. Since I did not perform with the bat, that does not make me a bad player,” Jackson said.

Since his name seems like he is a foreigner, he said: “To People who say that I am a foreigner cricketer, all I will say is that they don’t follow domestic cricket. People who follow domestic cricket know who Sheldon Jackson is.”