Giving his best, Jalaj Saxena continues to hope for the best

Such has been Jalaj Saxena’s exploits in the Indian domestic circuit over the years, that every match he plays, the allrounder invariably achieves one milestone or another.

In the season opener of the 2019-20 season, the Duleep Trophy, Saxena claimed 3/57 in the first innings for India Blue against India Red en route to completing 300 first-class wickets, making him the only uncapped Indian to score 6,000 first class runs and claim 300 wickets.

Overall, Saxena now finds himself in the elite company of CK Nayudu, Vinoo Mankad, Vijay Hazare, Lala Amarnath and Kapil Dev , to name a few, who have achieved this rare double.

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“I knew I was close to 300 wickets but did not know I was only among a few players to have achieved it,” Saxena tells CricketCountry, “and that too legends of the game like Polly Umrigar, Kapil Dev, CK Nayudu. I feel immensely proud of what I have achieved.

“I honestly do not have any words (to describe the feeling) … I just feel very proud to be in a list consisting of the such big names – they are legends of Indian cricket, and I am nowhere close them. To have been able to achieve this is great.”

Last season, Saxena became the only player in Ranji Trophy history to score a century and claim an eight-wicket haul in an innings in a single match on two occasions. This put him in the elite company of the likes of WG Grace, Frank Tarrant and Frank Woolley to achieve this rare double in first-class cricket.

While finding his name among such luminaries is a good thing, not having represented India at the senior level despite raking up such numbers is disheartening for the 32-year-old.

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“As I have said many times in many interviews, selection is not in my hands. I can only perform and that is what I try to do,” says Saxena, who is the recipient of the Lala Amarnath award for the best allrounder of Ranji Trophy for the last four seasons. “I have been playing for many years now and it is about doing well for the team that you play for. I hope to play for India one day – I am sure that will happen one day.”

However, things have been slightly better for the Indore-born allrounder. In February this year he was able to add two matches to his India A tally of four and was then picked up by Indian Premier League franchise Delhi Capitals. Even though he did not get a game, being part of the set up was a privilege for Saxena.

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“To be part of a setup with legends like Sourav Ganguly and Ricky Ponting, I felt privileged,” he says. “There is a lot to learn from them and during the course of numerous conversations, I learned a lot. I specifically remember Ganguly telling me that he was impressed with my batting, in one of the games at Eden Gardens where I batted on a green top and scored a century; Kerala won the match and he told me that he watched the innings and it was impressive. When someone of his stature tells you that, it motivates you, it inspires you and you want to do better.

“Ponting has clarity of thought. He was in constant touch with me during the IPL and he keeps telling you things. He always ensured that I knew what my role in the team was and used to come up to me a talk. He said I was close to playing one or two games that season, but it did not happen, however Ponting kept talking to me and made sure I knew where I stood in the team.”

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With India Blue not able to make it to the final of the Duleep Trophy, Saxena’s next assignment is the Vijay Hazare Trophy with Kerala, a team that he has made his own in the two seasons that he has been a part of.

“For every team the aim to is to lift the Ranji Trophy and that is what I want to do as well – help Kerala lift the Trophy, because for me the Ranji Trophy is the biggest tournament in India,” he says. “We were in the quarters two season back, last season we were in the semi-finals – so I hope this year we will be able to lift the trophy. After the Duleep Trophy gets over we will have a preparatory camp for the Vijay Hazare Trophy.”

Kerala are in Group B for the upcoming season alongside Andhra, Bengal, Delhi, Himachal, Hyderabad, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Tamil Nadu.

List of players with 6000 runs and 300 wickets in Indian domestic circuit

 Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri, Manoj Prabhakar, Madan Lal, Sanjay Bangar, Sairaj Bahutule, S Abid Ali, S Venkataraghavan, Salim Durani, ML Jaisimha, Chandu Sarwate, Polly Umrigar, Bapu Nadkarni, Chandu Borde, CK Nayudu, Jalaj Saxena