India may be wondering why Mumbai’s prolific opener Wasim Jaffer hasn’t made it to the national team for the series against Australia. But the 34-year-old didn’t bat an eyelid when he heard the news.
“I came to know when I came in for tea. I was batting on 74 and well, what could I do about it?,” said Jaffer in an interview to Firstpost. “So I went out and got my century. I can only do what I have been doing — score runs and hope that someday I will get that call up into the national squad. If I have to do it with the sheer weight of runs, I will do it.”
Some people might have thrown a tantrum. Others might have pleaded to the selectors. Jaffer just got with life. His was the name of everyone’s lips as the selection date neared. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir’s lack of form meant that the Mumbai veteran was a front-runner in the eyes of many. But he once again had to deal with disappointment.
“I am kind of getting used to it. Even though everyone was talking about my chances, I knew that I could not afford getting distracted. The 80 and 100 I got in the last game were moments where I just wanted to be focussed on the job at hand. I enjoy batting, I enjoy scoring runs and I enjoy winning. Events that are outside my control are just that — outside my control. The moment I start thinking about those things my game will suffer,” said Jaffer in a philosophical manner.
Since 2008, when Jaffer was dropped from the Indian team, the opener’s season totals make scary reading for Mumbai’s opponents — 1549, 801, 940, 406. This season he made 1016 runs. So how does he do it, season after season… it is the kind of consistency that India can do with too.
“To say that only I work hard on my game is just not true. Everyone works hard but I guess I am blessed to be part of a team like Mumbai. Even if I am not playing for India, I know I am playing for the best team in India. Anything less than a Ranji Trophy title is considered as a failure and that is what drives us to give our best in every season.”
But this season wasn’t like any average season. A trip to Haj meant that Jaffer got into the season late and he had just four days to prepare for his first game of the season against Bengal.
“I had four days to prepare for that game and Bengal had a decent pace attack but to come into that game and score an 80 was a great boost to my confidence. It’s always nice to score some runs in your first match and to do against bowlers like Shami Ahmed really helped me.”
“The 67 I got against Madhya Pradesh was a pretty good knock and all the runs in the knock-out rounds were important as well. There is a certain feeling that you experience when you are batting well and I experienced that all season.”
His brilliant record may have been helped by the lack of quality spinners in domestic cricket as well.
“There was a time when bowlers would try to think you out — through their line and length or field settings. Now they just bowl flat. It is probably because of T20 — you don’t want to get into the ‘bad’ habit of giving flight; you want to control the match by controlling the flow of runs but that doesn’t always work. In fact, it almost never works.”
Asked to name a few promising spinners in the country, Jaffer came up blank.
“Sadly, I don’t think there are any.”
When Firstpost had spoken to Amol Muzumdar, another Ranji veteran, earlier in the season, his views had been very similar to that of Jaffer. The BCCI surely needs to take notice or they will no option but to keep going back to Harbhajan Singh before every series regardless of his performance in Ranji Trophy.
The subject of fast bowlers brought some cheer. Jaffer feels there are at least a few with the potential to make it to the Indian team in the near future.
“Ishwar Pandey surely stands out as one who could play for India in the next 2-3 years. He has height, good pace and gets the ball to move. He certainly has the potential. Uttar Pradesh’s Imtiaz Ahmed is another impressive bowler. Mumbai’s Dhawal Kulkarni has been in good touch for a long time and I believe that there are times when he is unlucky. But he would be the perfect bowler for South Africa (India tour later in the year). He must get picked on that tour.”