A rare feather in Jaydev’s cap

Jaydev Shah may not be a cricketing icon like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid or Virender Sehwag but whatever he has achieved in the cricket field is no mean achievement by any standard. No, not just in terms of figures or numbers but for the role that he has essayed in taking Saurashtra cricket forward. Just 32 years of age, Jaydev seems to be around for quite some time now. To play 100 First Class matches in a career spanning 13 years and to be the captaining the side in 88 of those matches has been quite a journey after he made his debut in the 2004-05 season.

Jaydev as captain has a record of winning 27 games, losing 20 and drawing 41. The previous record for most matches captained by any individual stands in the name of Haryana’s Ravinder Chadha, whose playing days were between 1970-71 and 1987-88. Hyderabad captain and legendary cricketer ML Jaisimha is third on the list, having played 76 matches as captain between 1959-60 and 1976-77.

Like his cricket, his flamboyance is also seen in his leadership where he has led the team more with the heart than head. Jaydev is an instinctive player, a lot like Sehwag in his hey days. As long as Jaydev stays on the wicket, you can be sure to be entertained. But like a true capatain, there also has been those dogged and determined knocks to bail his team out of crisis. Like the one he played against Himachal Pradesh in his 100th First Class match. Jaydev top-scored for Saurashtra with a magnificent 142 chasing the opponent’s massive 551 runs in the first innings and Saurashtra, riding on Jaydev’s century reached 437.

His non-controversial personality and no-nonsense attitude helps him earn the respect he deserves from his team members. During his career as skipper, he earned the rare distinction of captaining Saurashtra to the Vijay Hazare, also known as the Ranji One-Day, title in 2007-08 beating a formidable Bengal side in the final at Vishakhaptnam.

The other feather in his cap is Saurashtra’s journey to the Ranji Trophy final in 2012-13 season. Never in the annals of modern history has the team done so well in Ranji Trophy. The last time Saurashtra reached such height in domestic cricket was way back in 1936-37 when they, called Nawanagr then, won the title beating Bengal in the final. In the next season they finished runners-up behind Hyderabad. But since then Saurashtra has always been an enigma.

They will come up with some brilliant individual performances once in a while but overall, as a team, they hardly fired in unison. It was then that the selectors decided to hand over the rein to Jaydev. Once Jaydev took over, there was a calm in the team which helped settle many things in the dressing room and the performance started reflecting on the field. The selectors too realized that Jaydev the skipper is of far more importance to Saurashtra cricket than Jaydev the player. So despite not being at the top of his game at times, the selectors decided to continue with Jaydev as the captain of the side. The BCCI acknowledging his leadership skills named him captain of a select Indian squad for a short tour of Israel in 2009.

Many players like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Arpit Vasavada, Sheldon Jackson, Chirag Jani, Kamlesh Makwana, Dharmendra Jadeja etc blossomed under Jaydev’s captaincy. Pujara and Jadeja went on to become key members for the Indian national team. Jackson and Vasavada have made it to the zonal stage and they are always on the fringe. The others are finding their feet and making a name for themselves in domestic cricket. All this happened because Jaydev is a player’s captain. He will hardly impose anything on the player and will always back them when the chips are down. He understood that with the swords of performance and selection hanging over their head, no player can perform to their true potential. So he always backed them to play their natural game, no matter whether they succeeded or failed. That is one reason why watching Saurashtra cricketers is so exciting. No wonder formidable teams like Mumbai, Delhi or Karnataka would always be scary of Saurashtra because they have this habit of springing surprises out of the blue.

Jaydev celebrated his 100 First Class match with a masterly 142 and this is what he had to say on his achievement: “Playing my 100th first class match is something very special to me and I can say that I had a really good journey. There are many memorable moments but wining the Ranji one-day title, beating Punjab and reaching the Ranji final where we went down to Mumbai, were some achievements which I will cherish. This is my 12th year as a captain and I can vouch that the atmosphere in the team has been very good all through my captaincy. There has not been a single unsavoury situation during my entire tenure and I think they all are happy so I can take some pride in that.”

We all need to take a bow for this soft-spoken gentleman cricketer who is going to achieve much more and will also give back much more to cricket in days to come.