Not just the beaches, Goa is also famous as the land of football and feni. Shadab Jakati is not known to have a taste for both. Yet, he is popular enough to be seen as the poster-boy of a newly-launched regional political outfit, Goa Forward. The popularity underlines the benefits of playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
There is no better stage to make your mark than the Twenty20 league and being part of the most successful team, Chennai Super Kings, and now Gujarat Lions, has helped Jakati become a popular face in his home state. Goa is a weak cricket pocket, and it’s only after his performance in the 2009 IPL held in South Africa that Jakati became a brand in his state. His IPL career did suffer in between but the move to Gujarat Lions this year has again lifted his stock.
“It [playing in the IPL] has definitely helped not only me but scores of other domestic players. It has given us immense exposure. God’s been very kind, the 2016 season has been very good for me so far,” says the Goa left-arm spinner, expressing his excitement at starting the new political innings.
“Sometimes you have to back yourself and make brave decisions. I think it is the right time for me. I have always had an interest in politics and have been following politics quite a lot,” he adds.
There are many former cricketers who have made a career in politics, but few have tried it while still being active. Despite being involved in party work, Jakati is attending the pre-season training camp of the Goa Ranji team.
Jakati says some of his Ranji teammates were surprised when he joined them for training a few days ago. “It was a surprise for most of them. I was expecting it.”
Talking about the overall reaction of the cricket fraternity, Jakati says: “I got a lot of positive response, people were very happy. Some were a bit negative too.”
His IPL mates were excited too. Among those to call him were his Gujarat Lions captain, Suresh Raina, and Irfan Pathan. “Raina was happy and wished me best.”
According to reports, the 35-year-old cricketer could be fielded as the candidate from the Dabolim legislative assembly constituency in South Goa when the smallest state in India goes to poll in early 2017.
Whether he contests or not, he is not ready to end his cricketing career yet. “I still have very good couple of years of cricket left in me. I have a contract with Gujarat Lions and I still believe I can play for India. I still want to play cricket.”
Besides politics, cricket administration also provides an option for players who are ready to take the plunge. Goa’s cricket association is in dire need of an image makeover after cases of fraud against their senior administrators, including the president. There has also been a move, backed by the Supreme Court, to constitute a players’ association. Jakati is game to have a role in both. “Why not,” he declares. “You want to give back to the game in whatever way possible.”
Jakati says he is banking on local support as well as help from his IPL mates in the new challenge, when asked whether his IPL team stars would be seen in action in his rallies. “I do expect them to help me in my endeavour,” he adds.
Sharing the reasons he took the plunge in politics, he states: “The party I joined is a pure regional party with a youth appeal and vision. Also, I like their agenda of promoting Goanese.”