CHENNAI: When you think of Goa, your thoughts wander to the sea and football. But, cricket has carved its own niche in the state over the years, thanks to the likes of Shadab Jakati.
He starting his domestic career in 1998-99, a time when nobody in Goa really knew much about the game. Toiling hard over the years, Jakati finally emerged from obscurity when he was picked up by the Chennai Super Kings in the first IPL auction. His performances in South Africa in 2009 (13 wickets) and in the subsequent edition (13 wickets) ensured that he came into the radar of national selectors.
But Jakati never quite managed to make it. He feels that hailing from a small state had a lot to do with it. “If I was from some other state where the association is strong and has a say in BCCI matters, then maybe things would have turned out differently. Players like MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina have praised my performances, and that is something I will always cherish. The state has given me a lot, and I hold no grudges,” he told Express.
The 36-year-old has been repaying that faith. In this season’s Ranji Trophy, he was the joint third-highest wicket-taker (41 scalps).
“I have been focussing a lot on my fitness and the hard work has paid off. Improvement is a never-ending process, and I still have two-three more years,” he said after his team’s 78-run loss against Gujarat in Group C of the Vijay Hazare Trophy at Gurunanak College.
The slow left-arm spinner is the only Goan to make it to an IPL franchise (retained by Gujarat Lions) this year, something that he is proud of. “Selectors and experts get to know that Goa as a state has talented players. I and Swapnil (Asnodkar) keep motivating youngsters.”
Goa, with a small catchment area has its own problems with regards to creating a pool of players for the state. And Jakati knows it first-hand. “Football is more popular. But cricket is catching up. The mentality has to change and only good performances will ensure that kids take to the game.”
The Vasco da Gama native added another feather to his cap by joining the Goa Forward Party. “It’s a dirty arena, but playing the gentleman’s game, I hope to help the youth of the state. I plan to bide my time. Maybe I’ll contest in the next elections.”