Emotional homecoming for Saurashtra’s Sheldon

Lester Bell was never really interested in cricket, but about two decades back, he found himself shopping for little gloves, mini-pads and smaller bats. After he adopted little Sheldon Jackson, then 4, and brought him to Mumbai when he was 12, little did he know that cricket would soon become central to his life, and earn precedence even over his busy job at the shipping firm.

Today, Sheldon Jackson is the backbone of Saurashtra's batting order, and is back in the city as one of the biggest threats that Mumbai's Ranji team need to watch out for. Sheldon had lost his father when he was 10 but he had already been under the foster care of his uncle Lester. Financial difficulties being the reason for Sheldon's painful parting from his family.

Life has never been easy for Jackson; and chances were few and far between. At St Peter's, Mazgoan in Mumbai, the now Saurashtra middle-order bat tried his luck in cricket but played only two Harris and Giles Shield games. His steady interest in sports took him into hockey, football and athletics but soon Bell decided that Mumbai was not the place for him, so the young wicket-keeper was shifted back to Bhavnagar.

"The family's economic conditions were very poor that's the reason I was adopted. Whatever I am today is because of my uncle. I stayed in Mumbai for three years and then moved backed to Bhavnagar. Soon I made it to the Saurashtra U-16 side," Jackson says, resting on a couch in a posh seven-star hotel now.

Sitting next to him, Bell's ever the doting guardian as he predicts a win for Saurashtra and a hundred for Sheldon, even as the youngster blushes at this indulgent appraisal by the elder. Mumbai's star-studded line-up is no deterrent for this father. "I didn't have a child, so I adopted Sheldon. He was from the extended family and people thought after adopting him I'd change his name but I didn't. What's in the name? He calls me papa and I'm a happy, proud parent now. He has worked hard for this," Bell explains.

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