Ranji trophy, umpiring in domestic cricket, and personal career- Wasim Jaffer opens up post title triumph
For Vidarbha, this win was in many ways a message to the other teams that last year was no fluke. It was a message from a team which has adopted a system which is clearly flourishing. People certainly know there is another Ranji side in Maharashtra, somewhere towards the east of Mumbai.
For Wasim Jaffer, it was more like life coming a full circle. He left Mumbai after devoting nearly 18 years of his service for the side and hopped across to Nagpur in 2015-16. He has since played two finals, and won both and in the process maintained his 100 per cent record in the finals. For the man, it has always been about the side, and personal milestones and form should always been viewed through what the side has achieved. He believes this season was tougher than last year, he knows teams were better prepared to thwart Vidarbha and hence, this season is sweeter for him.
“It was a very tough season compared to last year, mainly because we had won last year which led to expectations and pressure. Last year we were an unknown commodity and teams did not take us seriously. This year, teams knew about us, there were changes in the points system - out of 18 teams from group A and B, only 5 teams could make it through to the knockouts which was extremely tough. And we topped our group which was superb, it gave us the boost in the quarters, semis and eventually the final match,” Jaffer told Hindustan Times in an exclusive chat.
He may not rate his worth much, forever shifting the focus to his side, but Jaffer was the lynchpin in this side. His calmness in the middle order, he run-churning ability kept the machine churning at all times. 1037 runs in 15 innings at an average of 69.13 was astounding on many accounts, one that needs to be spoken about.
“I think this season was very satisfying, probably in my last 4 to 5 seasons, this has to be my best, without a doubt. Last year I had a decent season, but this was very important for the team. My knocks against Mumbai, Gujarat and even against Uttarakhand and Baroda were very crucial from the team’s perspective. We needed to get going and the match against Baroda was when we got a win under a belt. When you near 36 with injury niggles, this season was indeed very satisfying,” he added.
Jaffer has seen, mentored young players from up close and personal. He has an eye for talent and in this current Vidarbha side, there are young players who deserved attention. Yes, these are early stages, but as a group, these young players have merited the limelight.
“Frankly, it is a very big leap. These players cannot even think about international cricket at this stage. I would not be honest if I said that these players are ready just because we won the Ranji Trophy. If not for the Indian side, they can be looked at from the India A side so that they believe. Players like Akshay Wadkar, Aditya Sarwate, Akshay Karnewar, Gurbani have the talent, they can certainly be picked for the next stage. They have had strong performances over the last two seasons. Throw them into India A games and see how they react. We can then talk about them,” the seasoned campaigner assessed.
The final was billed as an encounter between Wasim Jaffer and Cheteshwar Pujara, but both these stalwarts could not get going. It was a low scoring match by all accounts, but the right-hander believes it was not because of the nerves.
“Not really (the pressure). I was batting well in the first innings, they bowled well, kept the pressure on me. I was set up for a decent score and got out at the stroke of lunch. But these things happen, you have to give them credit for keeping it tight. I have played a lot of finals in my life, there was no pressure. The pitch was a difficult one to score runs, but well, this is cricket,” he said.
The pitch in Nagpur was a great advert, it had assistance for the seamers and spinners with the new ball, but if a player saw off the initial phase, run-scoring became a tad easy, which was vindicated because the lower order contributed important runs for both the sides.
“It was that sort of a pitch, once you played 40-45 overs, the ball became soft and run-scoring became easy. There was help for the bowlers with the newish ball, but the game was different when the ball became soft. It was the pattern of the game. We were 200/7 at the end of Day 1 and Karnewar played an amazing innings, for us to end with 312 was great.”
“Like I said, the pitch was great with the new ball, so we were confident of defending 206 to be honest. The mood in the camp was pretty upbeat. We knew couple of wickets at the top and we would be in charge. This is exactly what happened. When we got Pujara, we knew we were almost there. Saurashtra were deflated when he got out, because he was the main man in the side who was capable of digging in and playing the decisive innings,” Jaffer reflected.
Umpiring standards in the domestic circuit was under the scanner and teams were not entirely happy with decisions which went against them, but Jaffer believes things are not as bleak as everyone wants to make it.
“Look, umpiring standards have improved dramatically. They are humans too, they will make mistakes, but overall, it was quite good. As far as the DRS is concerned, it is almost impossible to use it in the league games as there are so many games going on at the same time. But yes, it could be put to use in the knockout games, which could help the sides,” the right-hander said.
So, what next for Wasim Jaffer, will he turn out again next season, take guard and peel off runs. Will he dabble into coaching, commentary, or will he just walk away.
“Ummm, can’t really comment now. Let’s see, there is an Irani Trophy match coming up. Will play that, and then assess. As far as there is motivation to play the game, I will continue. But the day, I feel it becomes taxing to get up in the morning and train, I might call it quits. It is all about having that desire, you see. Not getting any younger, so it keeps getting difficult to train with the same intensity. I know, I do not have many seasons left in me, but let’s see.”
“Where next? Don’t know to be honest. Yes, coaching is something which I want to do, commentary is one of the options. Will decide and take a call when the season ends,” Jaffer signs off.