Being communal never crossed my mind: Wasim Jaffer
- Earlier, Uttarakhand team manager Navneet Mishra had alleged that Jaffer picked players based on their religion and created a communal atmosphere soon after the Mumbai and India opener had resigned as Uttarakhand’s coach on Tuesday citing interference in team selection.
Following the unprecedented allegations of communal bias made against former India opener Wasim Jaffer after he quit as coach of Uttarakhand’s state team, his former India captain Anil Kumble came out in support of the legendary Mumbai batsman.
“With you Wasim,” tweeted Kumble, who is now the chief coach at IPL team Kings XI Punjab where Jaffer is the batting coach. “Did the right thing. Unfortunately it's the players who'll miss your mentorship." Former India cricketers Doddanarasiah Ganesh and Manoj Tiwari also took to Twitter to back him but Kumble is the only India teammate of Jaffer’s who has publicly come out in his support so far.
Earlier, Uttarakhand team manager Navneet Mishra had alleged that Jaffer picked players based on their religion and created a communal atmosphere soon after the Mumbai and India opener had resigned as Uttarakhand’s coach on Tuesday citing interference in team selection.
Cricket Association of Uttarakhand (CAU) office-bearers distanced themselves from the allegations when contacted.
“No such thing has come in front of me during camp or matches (allegations of communal bias)," said CAU secretary Mahim Verma. “We have asked for the full report and explanation from the team manager (who had made the allegations), which we will get by Friday.”
At a virtual media briefing he called on Wednesday, Jaffer said it was "sad" that he had to take the step to deny the "baseless" allegations, which were carried in Hindi newspaper Jagran on Tuesday.
Jaffer, 42, resigned as the Uttarakhand coach after CAU officials made many changes to the team, including replacing the captain, for the Vijay Hazare Trophy without consulting him.
Not having “freedom” to build the team his own way was one of the reasons Jaffer cited in his resignation letter.
"I have already mentioned the reasons behind my resignation in my e-mail, and I stand by them. But giving it a communal angle, and that I have to even give clarification on such things, is very, very sad. After playing for so long, after representing the country, I have to come and defend myself for such petty things," said Jaffer. "I didn't enforce anything on anyone. Everybody has his own faith and he is entitled to it. And I respect all faiths."
CAU secretary Verma said that there is no religious discrimination in Uttarakhand cricket. “If that was the case, I wouldn’t have brought him (Jaffer) here. Whatever he had said, I had done it, you can ask him. Whatever facilities he wanted, I provided it.”
One of the allegations leveled against Jaffer is that he breached bio-bubble rules by inviting maulvis to offer prayers.
“Iqbal (Abdulla, Uttarakhand player) took permission to call someone and offer namaaz as there were three-four other (Muslim) players as well,” Jaffer said. “So, after finishing practice on Fridays, we use to offer namaaz in the dressing room for five minutes. And it was not during the bio-bubble, it was during the camp we held before that. It happened on a couple of occasions and everyone knew about it, so I don’t understand why it has become an issue.”
Jaffer painted a poor picture of how the Uttarakhand team selections are done, the reason, he said, for his departure.
“Even without speaking to me the team was announced, then you changed the captain as well, you changed 10 players. That was the reason for my resignation. I only want to say that deserving boys shouldn’t miss out. If there is so much interference, how will I work,” he said. “If I back players and if they don’t perform then I’m ready to take blame for that. That’s how I have played my cricket.
“I’m not afraid of speaking truth. If I was communal, (I wouldn’t have) dropped Samad Fallah in the last match (in Mushtaq Ali Trophy). Mohammed Nazim, who was in the squad, would have also played all the matches. Very sad to sit here and explain such things. It never crossed my mind.
“Neither the chief selector (Rizwan Shamshad) nor any other selector nor the association officials were in touch with me. The only point of contact for me was the CEO (Aman Singh). Since no one consulted me, I emailed them my suggested squad with Dikshanshu (Negi) as the captain since I wanted a local to lead." Kunal Chandela has been named captain.
Uttarakhand’s chief selector Shamshad defended the changes he made to the team but did not offer any explanation as to why Jaffer was not part of the team selection process. Selectors and coaches decide a team together as per the norm.
“Who will select the team, why are selectors appointed?” Shamshad said. “When a team suffers defeats, the team will be changed. As a selector I can only say that I made the team and when the team lost, we made the changes.”
Another insinuation made against Jaffer was that he urged the team to drop their usual slogan during matches.
“When we reached Baroda for our group matches (of Mushtaq Ali Trophy), I told them, ‘We are not playing as a community, we are playing for Uttarakhand so our slogan should be for the team… something like ‘Go Uttarakhand’ or ‘Let’s do it for Uttarakhand’ or ‘Come on Uttarakhand’. The idea was that as players were from different faiths, we make some slogan which will be common for all and told them to decide. There was no such thing as Jai Hanuman or Jai Shriram. This is all false and baseless. If there was some communal thing, I would have told them say ‘Allah-u-Akbar’,” Jaffer said.
Jaffer, who played 31 Tests for India, is the holder of numerous records in first-class cricket, including that of most runs scored in the Ranji Trophy as well as most matches played. He is the only player to score more than 11,000 runs in Ranji Trophy, and finished his FC career with an incredible 19, 410 runs to his name, and an average of 50.67.
Amol Muzumdar, the former Mumbai captain, also backed his long-time teammate: “There is no question in my mind about his integrity. Somebody of his stature doesn’t need to prove it. He doesn’t have to defend himself. His achievements are second to none. We had a fantastic camaraderie (while playing). I enjoyed his company and I still enjoy it. He will be a friend for life.”
After helping Mumbai to multiple Ranji titles over his long career, Jaffer played his last four FC seasons for Vidarbha where he defied age to lead the team to two successive Ranji titles in 2017-18 and 2018-19, while playing the role of a mentor to the inexperienced players of the team.
Faiz Fasal, Vidarbha captain, said: “He was a big brother to all of us. We are really sad. He hasn’t done anything wrong, people can say whatever they want to but he is not like that so it doesn’t matter. Accusing a gentleman of his stature is very strange.”
The extended Jaffer family is well-known in Mumbai as a family of cricketers and coaches. Their journey started with Abdul Kader, Jaffer’s father, who wanted at least one of his four sons to play for India. Jaffer’s brother Kalim is a respected coach in Mumbai. Kalim’s son Armaan was part of the India under-19 squad during the 2016 World Cup and has also played for Mumbai and India ‘A’. Armaan’s sister Fatima too has represented Mumbai and India ‘A’.