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From football in Goa to fame in Jo’burg

For someone who plays for Salgaocar, a brand more famous for football and not cricket, Jakati was understandably nervous about the kind of reception he would get from his more illustrious teammates, writes G Krishnan.

cricket Updated: May 04, 2009 01:06 IST
G. Krishnan

From the beaches of sunny Goa, where football and pinacoladas are the speciality, emerged the IPL’s latest unlikely hero. Shadab Jakati, largely unheard of till now, spun the Chennai Super Kings to a crucial win over the Delhi Daredevils on Saturday, walking away with the Man-of-the-Match award for his 4 for 24.

“I played football in school. I became interested in cricket by watching flood-lit tennis-ball cricket in Margao,” Jakati told HT after he had shared the good times with his businessman father back home.

For someone who plays for Salgaocar, a brand more famous for football and not cricket, Jakati was understandably nervous about the kind of reception he would get from his more illustrious teammates. “When I was selected, I wondered how the international players would be,” Jakati admitted. “But the dressing room atmosphere has been very good. They did not treat me any differently from others. After last year’s IPL, I have been in regular touch with Mike Hussey and Jacob Oram discussing cricket. They all made me comfortable.”

Jakati was picked up by the Chennai Super Kings after team director VB Chandrasekhar watched the left-arm spinner perform in the South Zone inter-state competition in 2008. Chandrasekhar, a former national selector, thought Jakati was “ideal” for T20 cricket, with more than 10 seasons’ first-class experience under the belt. What the 28-year-old lacked in exposure, playing for a weak team like Goa, he tried to make up by travelling to Bangalore and Hubli in Karnataka for cricket tournaments.

Jakati did not get a chance to play a single game in IPL-1. When the call finally came, at the Centurion last Thursday, Jakati was not called on to bowl. So he would have felt some nerves on Saturday evening, against the rampaging Delhi team. “Seeing Dhoni behind the stumps brought the best out of me,” said Jakati. The captain returned the compliment. “He has been bowling well in the nets and IPL is the platform for youngsters to perform,” said Dhoni soon after the game. “Jakati is not afraid to flight the ball.”

The environment in the Chennai team is helping cricketers find their feet.