Sheldon Jackson - The wicketkeeper with no name, who has scored the first 300 of the season
Why does Sheldon Jackson find it so easy to go under the radar?
Luck does not always favour the brave. Some good guys inexplicably have all good fortune whizzing past them while they stand ruing what should have been. Indian cricket history is littered with instances of talented cricketers who have never received due credit simply because of circumstance. Like Amol Muzumdar and Subramaniam Badrinath, who despite attaining legendary status in the Indian domestic circuit, never got opportunities in international cricket. The most recent entrant in this list, Sheldon Jackson, has scored the first triple century of the 2016/17 domestic season in the TNCA first division earlier this month.
Sheldon’s 303* for Globe Trotters Sports Club against United Friends Cricket Club in Tamil Nadu’s first division league last week is symptomatic of the frequent prods his knocks give the selectors, but recognition has been hard to come by for him. This was the 29-year-old’s highest score in senior level cricket, his only previous triple century having come in the U-19 circuit.
Sheldon has been called up to the India A squad a few times, even turning in a winning 59 that was crucial to Rest of India’s third-highest successful chase in Indian first-class cricket in the Irani Cup match against Mumbai earlier this year. However, in a manner that is symptomatic of how Sheldon’s knocks are not appreciated, he has been dropped from the India A squad named to tour Australia later this year. Other ROI heroes from that match, Faiz Fazal, Jayant Yadav and Karun Nair have had their stocks rising since then.
Before the 2016 IPL, Jackson was billed as one of the faces of Kolkata Knight Riders’ campaign. True to what how career has come to pan out, he did not get to play a single game and remained on the bench throughout. Given that he is a fine fielder, and perhaps even a better keeper than Robin Uthappa, the KKR management might have missed a trick in not playing him ahead of all-rounders like Piyush Chawla and Rajagopal Sathish in at least one or two matches.
Sheldon is one of the handful of current Indian players with a first class batting average over 50, the others being Ajinkya Rahane, Ankit Bawne, KL Rahul, Karun Nair, Manoj Tiwary and Subramaniam Badrinath. He has the highest average among potential succesors to MS Dhoni’s wicketkeeper’s position, but is the only one among Naman Ojha, Wriddhiman Saha, Sanju Samson, Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel yet to receive an India call-up. Despite being six years older than Samson, Sheldon clearly has a few years of service left to offer at the highest level.
A wicketkeeper with a FC batting average of 50 not getting into the team, not even getting a look-in, is quite an abnormality. For the sake of perspective, Denesh Ramdin is one of West Indies’ most successful wicketkeepers with the bat, and his average is 29.
Consistent success in Ranji Trophy with Saurashtra
Jackson, along with Ravindra Jadeja and Cheteshwar Pujara, have been the pillars of Saurashtra’s success in recent years, in which period they have reached two of the last four Ranji Trophy finals. He scored 819 runs in just 8 matches at 68.25 with three centuries and three half-centuries in the 2014/15 season, and 539 runs from 10 matches in the last season.
Like in the build-up to the two previous Ranji seasons, he is currently plying his trade in Tamil Nadu’s first division. He is the second highest run scorer in the TNCA league as of now. He is also operating at a strike rate of 90, having hit a tournament high 13 sixes. Nobody else in the league has cleared the ropes even half the number of times as him.
In the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy last year, Sheldon smashed a 150 off 103 balls. His strike rate has always been on the upper side, and so it is not a concern at all that he wastes balls – a complaint that has seen his Saurashtra teammate Pujara missing out from being considered in the shorter formats.
However, the unassuming young man was not even assured of a starting XI place in the Globe Trotters side before his triple century made everybody look up. Why does Sheldon Jackson find it so easy to go under the radar?
A story goes that the great Napolean always used to ask about generals whenever their bravery was commended to him – “But is he lucky?” Sheldon Jackson would not have amounted to much in Napolean’s eyes.