Jalaj Saxena: I wake up every morning hoping to play for India

Jalaj Saxena, one of the most consistent all-rounders in domestic cricket in the last one-and-a-half decades, continues to be hopeful of a Team India call-up.

Saxena, who played for Madhya Pradesh and then switched to Kerala, acknowledged the backing of his family members, including his elder brother Jatin.   -  Y. B. Sarangi

Jalaj Saxena, one of the most consistent all-rounders in domestic cricket in the last one-and-a-half decades, continues to be hopeful of a Team India call-up.

Approaching his 33rd birthday, Saxena, who returned his maiden List ‘A’ fiver (seven for 41 against India ‘A’) to record the best-ever figures in Deodhar Trophy and followed it up with an impressive two for 25 against India ‘B’ in Ranchi on Saturday, said his consistency inspired him to keep playing.

“If I am performing well, frustration is not there. Four-five years ago, I used to get frustrated (not getting the India cap). Those around me told me to enjoy my performance. Selection is not in my hands. My job is to play cricket and that is what I am doing.

“The motivation is always to play for India. I wake up every morning with this hope,” said Saxena, donning the India ‘C’ jersey in the Deodhar Trophy.

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Saxena, who played for Madhya Pradesh and then switched to Kerala, acknowledged the backing of his family members, including his elder brother Jatin (who has played for Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh). “I got a lot of support from my brother... learnt a lot from him.”

Saxena – who has scored 6153 runs and has taken 307 wickets in 115 first-class matches, 1847 runs and 105 wickets in 91 List ‘A’ matches and 585 runs and 41 wickets in 48 T20 matches – always aims to get better.

“My hard work off the field gets translated into performance on the field. I need to improve my game every year, every season… In the last six-seven years, I have developed mentally. Yoga has been a big help.”

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Chasing excellence, Saxena has become a better bowler. “Every year one needs to learn something new and add something. Otherwise, one will lag… Variations are important but one must understand how effective the stock delivery will be. If my stock delivery, which is off-spin, is effective, only then will my variations work… I am trying some variations — carrom ball, googly, leg-spin.”

Saxena is not fussy about batting positions. “I try to perform in whichever situation or position I get. For India ‘A’ sides, I have batted at No. 7. In Ranji Trophy, I open and also bat at No.6 or 7. Being a professional you have to adjust to these things,” he said.