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Mental toughness key: Jaffer

It's only for a handful that success in international cricket comes quickly.

india Updated: Jun 06, 2006 03:16 IST

It's only for a handful that success in international cricket comes quickly - most others must strive and strive to make their mark. And while he belongs to the second category, it has taken Wasim Jaffer longer than many to prove that he is worth a place in the Indian team.

The Mumbai opener was thrown into the deep end of the pool when he got his Test cap against South Africa in 2000, at the age of 22. He did little of note against an attack that included Alan Donald and Shaun Pollock, and South African inflicted on India their first home series defeat after 1987.

After a brief absence, he was back in 2002, touring the West Indies and England. This was followed by a longer period out of the side until he resurfaced against England in the home series this year and as they say, Jaffer hasn't looked back.

"Maybe I wasn't mature enough for international cricket during those tours. The years in the wilderness taught me the importance of mental strength," Jaffer told HT after his century in the first Test. "Not that I have made major technical adjustments, it's just that I have learnt that to succeed in international cricket, mental toughness is the key."

The 28-year-old son of a retired state bus driver knows that life is not a bed of roses. "Not just those who play the new ball, there is enormous pressure on all those who play for India. Take (Virender) Sehwag, for instance. A lot of things have been said against such a brilliant player. This puts you under pressure and you have to handle it."

Jaffer said he approached this series with some apprehension because he was coming from a surgery on his right shin. "Even against England, I struggled a bit while running and when I came here after the surgery, I didn't have the opportunity to spend much time in the middle."

But he wasn't worried after failing in the first innings. "I got a good ball early on. Instead of getting under pressure, I told myself to make amends in the second innings and bat for as long as possible," he said. "I wouldn't call it my best effort yet. The century against England (in Nagpur) was also important because it helped us save the match."

Irrespective of the outcome of the first Test, Jaffer's effort will remain crucial because the team only stands to gain if he keeps scoring in the second innings, something not many Indians have done in the recent past.