CricTracker Exclusive: I had almost given up playing cricket in disappointment: Sheldon Jackson
Sheldon Jackson had an exceptional domestic season last year, but his efforts were seldom noticed.
Published - Jan 3, 2020 7:26 pm
Updated - Jan 3, 2020 8:20 pm
He made his List-A debut at the age of 20 in 2006, T20 debut in 2009 and the first-class debut in 2011 and has never looked back since. With as many as 4945 FC runs in 69 matches with 16 hundreds and 25 half-centuries, 1869 List-A runs and 998 T20 runs, Sheldon Jackson is one of the most experienced cricketers in Saurashtra at the moment. If we go by the numbers, there will only be a few cricketers with such a record, especially in first-class cricket.
But still somehow, the 33-year-old isn’t on the selectors’ radar for a considerable period of time now despite scoring loads of runs, especially in the last couple of Ranji Trophy seasons. He had one of the best years in 2019 with the bat scoring 854 runs at an impeccable average of 47.44 playing a crucial role in Saurashtra qualifying for the final of the Ranji Trophy. Not to forget his 400 runs in 2017-18 FC season, again at an average close to 45. But all of those went unnoticed.
Mental health has been the primary reason these days for the cricketers either quitting the game or taking a break. And Sheldon Jackson, dejected and disappointed over constant rejections, also went through that phase. “To be very honest, it was a very roller-coaster kind of a year for me,” he said while speaking exclusively to CricTracker. “I played one of my best innings in 2019. But I never got noticed by anyone after scoring almost 900 Ranji Trophy runs and wasn’t even selected in any of the Duleep Trophy or India A teams.
“It was disappointing and heartbreaking because I believe every cricketer plays Ranji Trophy or any level of cricket to go up one step. If you just want to play Ranji Trophy, you will never ever be able to perform over there because the hunger and drive you have is to play for the country, represent at the higher level.
“I never got recognized. I totally lost motivation halfway during those times. I thought no matter how many runs I score, no matter whatever I do, I am not going to get picked,” Jackson added explaining how 2019 went for him.
The disappointment of falling off the radar after Duleep Trophy 2016-17
Not only Ranji Trophy, but Sheldon Jackson had also scored a lot of runs in the Duleep Trophy during the 2016-17 season. The tournament where India’s fair number of Test regulars participated, the Saurashtra batsman, playing for India Blue, was the third-highest run-getter with 368 runs in five innings at a simply spectacular average of 122.66. Only Cheteshwar Pujara and Mayank Agarwal, the fulcrum of India’s current Test line-up, were above him.
He played an odd game for India A, India B and Board President’s XI but surprisingly fell off the radar since then. Speaking of the snub, Sheldon Jackson said, “I was dropped from Duleep Trophy after being the third-highest scorer, after getting 100s at 6 & 7 against quality line-ups. After that, I never got to play a single Duleep Trophy match. I played one India A game against England and got 60 odd runs and then I didn’t get another India A game as well. So I lost motivation and inspiration.”
Parking aside the disappointment, the man amassed big numbers in the following seasons. But all in vain. This led to Sheldon Jackson contemplating over bringing down curtains over his career recently after Saurashtra’s opening game against Himachal Pradesh. He wasn’t even in the great mental space and had even drafted a mail to the association (only to not send it) about his retirement.
“I was trying to find motivation trying to work hard on myself, my fitness and my game. But deep inside even I knew, the motivation wasn’t there anymore. This Ranji season, between the first and second game, I had almost made up my mind that I am going to quit the game for good. I was so mentally upset with things. I was not in a very good space at that time. I had even drafted an email to send it to the association. I was in talks with my family, who have been supportive throughout and worried about my health.
“I played (second match), I was vomiting, I was not well at all and was mentally very weak and upset about something that was happening in my personal life. I wouldn’t have surprised myself if I had walked away from the game. Because at that stage I mentally needed to recover from all the rejections that I’ve got in 2019 and throughout three-four years despite scoring decently well.
An incident which ignited the spark in Sheldon Jackson
However, Sheldon Jackson changed his mind after an incident in the dressing room about which he preferred not to open up much. “I found that no one was ready to understand what I was going through and then too I kept trying to push myself and surprisingly, the last match after a team-meeting happened, some person said something and that struck me.
“That motivated me and gave me the inspiration once again to prove myself that after Ravindra Jadeja and Cheteshwar Pujara, I am the best batsman to ever play for Saurashtra,” he further said.
On IPL snub and playing for KKR alongside Gautam Gambhir
Moreover, Sheldon Jackson has also made peace with the fact he hasn’t been picked in the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction in the last couple of years. He had a great Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2019-20 season playing the role of a finisher for Saurashtra. “I did my job. Getting picked not getting picked (in IPL) actually is not in my hands. But I am very OK with it. To perform or not to perform is in your hands,” says Jackson.
When it comes to the IPL, the Saurashtra player was part of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) for almost four years when Gautam Gambhir was at the helm. Sheldon Jackson credits Gambhir and the franchise for whatever he has achieved so far in his career. “Whatever recognition I got, I got it because of Gautam bhai or KKR. Before KKR, I was scoring big but not many people knew me. They just thought that I was just another Ranji Trophy player.
“It was actually him (Gambhir) who saw me playing in a Delhi Ranji match against Saurashtra and that was the time when he told me that you will be in KKR. In KKR with Gautam bhai, it was amazing. Because what he is done for KKR, no other player or captain has done that. Gautam bhai was such a captain that once he trusted someone, he would give them all the backing and support they needed,” he said.
Sheldon Jackson – The fitness freak
Apart from being an excellent batsman, Sheldon Jackson is a supremely fit athlete. He is one of the fittest cricketers going around in the country. Multiple injuries during his career have motivated him to become fitter and he follows the Indian captain Virat Kohli and the Carribean beast Andre Russell in that aspect. When asked about the same, the 33-year-old says, “I have been following Virat and Russell closely. I have been speaking to Russell a little bit as well.”
“Once or twice I have spoken to him about his fitness. I’ve been watching his and Virat’s Instagram (fitness) videos which they put up. I think they are the two fittest cricketers going around in the world. There is no one fitter than Virat in Indian cricket according to me. So I keep trying to take motivation from them. Whatever they do, I replicate it. Because the city that I come from, we don’t have trainers over here. So I try to make a video out of it and send it to a couple of trainers asking them if they can help me or if my form is correct or how I can improve,” Sheldon Jackson added.
New Year Resolution
After a tough 2019 off the field, Sheldon Jackson is optimistic about 2020. And most importantly, his mindset is changed. He has realized that it is important to stay happy no matter what happens and one bad inning or tournament isn’t going to define his career. “My New Year resolution is, I just want to be happy. During the last two months when I was not in a mentally good space, I understood how my close ones had to suffer. If it affects me, its gonna affect my close ones as well.
“I just want to be happy whether I do well or don’t do well. It’s not going to make me a bad or good player. I will be what I am because of what I have done. My mind is so focused and I want to play as long as I can. I want to keep myself fit physically and mentally to play for a longer period of time,” Jackson concluded.