Sheldon Jackson. (TOI Photo)
MUMBAI: A few months after they clinched their maiden Ranji Trophy title in March, Saurashtra have suffered a big blow. TOI has reliably learnt that in a rather surprising decision, their ace batsman Sheldon Jackson has decided to leave Saurashtra and play for Puducherry as an outstation player this season.
A prolific batsman in domestic cricket who has scored 5,634 run in 76 first-class games at a handsome average of 49.42, with 19 hundreds and 27 fifties, the 33-year-old has been a vital cog in the Gujarat state’s batting wheel over the years.
He was the leading run-getter for them, scoring 809 runs in 10 games at 50.56, as Saurashtra beat Bengal at Rajkot in the final to capture the Ranji Trophy for the first time. Jackson’s exit, though, is a big blow to the Kathiawar team’s hopes of defending the coveted title this season.
Frustrated after he was ignored for the India A and Duleep Trophy squads despite consistent performances in the domestic circuit last season, Jackson had called for transparency from the national selectors last season.
Apart from Jackson, former India seamer Pankaj Singh and Paras Dogra are the other outstation players for Puducherry this season. Pankaj played for the southern team in its inaugural season. He was injured last season, and was replaced by another ex-India seamer, Vinay Kumar. Puducherry had earlier signed up Mumbai’s ex-India seamer Aavishkar Salvi as their head coach.
“Yes, we have signed contracts with the above three to be our ‘professional players’ this season. Our selectors unanimously decided to have them as our guest players. All three of them have established themselves as top performers for a long period of time in the Ranji Trophy. Sheldon is a great batter, who won the Ranji Trophy for Saurashtra on his own last season and was one of the top batsmen in domestic cricket. Both Sheldon and Dogra are top batsmen in first-class cricket, which is reflected in their superb records,” Cricket Association of Pondicherry (CAP) secretary V Chandran told TOI on Sunday.
“Both score close to 1,000 runs every season in the Ranji Trophy, while Pankaj gets around 45 wickets every year on an average. Puducherry have enough resources this season to do well and qualify for the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals and take it forward from there,” Chandran added.
Jackson refused to comment on the development. Amongst the new teams in domestic cricket, Puducherry have done well to develop several top-class grounds ready to stage first-class cricket.