The God of India’s domestic cricket and an idol to every First-Class cricketer in the country, Wasim Jaffer announced his retirement earlier this week at the age of 42. Cricket.com caught up with the highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy for a freewheeling chat on topics ranging from his brief international career to his upcoming stint as a batting coach in the IPL. Here are a few excerpts:
Cricket.com (CDC): Tell us about Sanjay Manrejkar’s tweet after your retirement. When did that incident happen? (Manrejkar tweeted this – "A 19-year-old Wasim Jaffer was reprimanded by a senior in the field for not bucking up the bowlers enough as the opposition scored its 400th run. Wasim calmly replied, “Woh sab theek hai, par apna batting aayega na?” A class player who just loved to bat.”
Wasim Jaffer (WJ): That was my second First-Class game. It was against Saurashtra. They had won the toss and they were batting. They batted for a long time, almost till the third day. Neither were they getting out nor did it seem like they will even declare. And I was the youngster of the team. And in my debut game – my first First-Class game, I didn’t do well. So you know you get tired when you don’t see a wicket falling. Obviously I was quiet, was just waiting for them to declare.
So I remember one of the seniors (I think it was Sameer Dighe, the keeper-batsman) told me to keep cheering and all. That’s when that line (wo sab theek hai lekin apni batting aayega na) came out of my mouth and became the butt of all jokes. And then fortunately I went on to get a triple hundred in that game and that knock made way for me to establish myself in the Mumbai team. That knock played a very important role in my life.
CDC: Tell us about your double hundred against the West Indies. That is still the second highest score by an Indian in the Caribbean.
WJ: That was in 2006 I think when I had had a small surgery on my leg. I was not sure if I would be able to play properly. There were a lot of questions marks in my head and I remember I got out cheaply in the first innings of that Test match and West Indies got a lead of some 130 runs. We were playing to save the match because we still had two and a half days left. Luckily I got a double hundred. We went on to nearly win that match. We got them nine down and the last wicket just folded them for a draw. So I remember that knock fondly. We could have gone one down in that series in the first Test itself but went on to win the series.
CDC: You are the highest run-scorer in the Ranji Trophy. Do you think the tournament should be marketed in a better way?
WJ: I think nowadays a lot of importance is given to the IPL, which I don’t think is wrong. It gives a lot of youngsters a platform to perform against some top international players. So I don’t think it is wrong but I think we don’t need to devalue the performances in domestic cricket. A lot of hard work goes into a guy getting 1000 runs or 40-50 wickets in a single season of the Ranji Trophy. A lot of effort and determination goes into this. We need to value those performances also. Someone who is doing such performances year in and year out needs to be given their due for performing so consistently.
CDC: Even someone like Cheteshwar Pujara is not the face of too many brands. Your thoughts?
WJ: I think the time has changed. Even in my time I feel a lot of players like Rahul Dravid or VVS Laxman, I don’t think they got their value. A player playing with them in a Test match knows how important those players are. But you know we have to go with the time. A lot of importance is given to T20 cricket. The people who are in marketing business or advertising business want somebody who is seen more on the TV, somebody who is glamorous or someone who plays the brand of cricket the crowd likes.
But you can’t devalue someone who plays T20 cricket because that’s the demand of the game nowadays. What I feel is, in today’s age and day, the cricketer needs to adapt himself to all three formats. You can’t just play Test cricket or you can’t just play T20 cricket. You will be recognised and respected only if you fit in all three formats. I am not saying Pujara is not respected, but then obviously he is going to play only Test cricket and no other format.
CDC: What’s your take on the use of the limited DRS in the Ranji Trophy?
WJ: If they are using then we might as well use the full DRS. There is no shortage of money with the BCCI. Any decision going here and there can change the complexion of the game. I’m sure people who played in the limited DRS would have felt that they were hard done by some decisions. So now that you are using it there is no harm in using it fully.
CDC: Tell us about your association with Sachin Tendulkar. Any fond memories?
I have grown up watching Sachin. When I was young I used to go to watch his school games. He was such a big name when he was playing school cricket. All would say this guy is the next big thing in Mumbai and Indian cricket circuit. Then he went on to play the Ranji Trophy and got a century on debut. Even on his Duleep Trophy and Irani Trophy debuts he got a hundred. I have followed him throughout and luckily got a chance to play with him in the Mumbai team and the Indian team. Those moments are priceless. I got the chance to bat with him in the Kolkata Test where I got a double hundred against Pakistan. That was very memorable. We got a lot of runs together playing for Mumbai. Even when I won my first Ranji Trophy as a captain he was playing in the team. All those memories will stay with me. And Sachin is such a humble guy. Even after achieving so much, he is very approachable. You reach out to him regarding anything and he is always there to help you.
CDC: At any point of your career did you think you can make a comeback in the Indian team?
WJ: I think I had a lot of chances. I came very close to those chances. But unfortunately the comeback didn’t happen. This happens with most cricketers, not just me. They feel they deserve to be there but do not get the opportunity because unfortunately somebody else is there to pick you and they decide certain things. But to be honest I have taken all that in my stride. I am a firm believer in destiny. If Allah has written something for you, it will happen. If he has not written it for you, no matter how much you try, it will not happen. I am content with whatever Allah has given me. If you keep cribbing about things you haven’t got, you are being very ungrateful. Allah has given me a lot of love and respect from people and I am grateful for that.
CDC: What values will you impart to the youngsters as the batting coach of the Kings XI Punjab?
WJ: I will try and help them as much as I can. A lot of players have problems, sometimes its mental, sometimes it is technical. Sometimes it could also be something that is out of cricket. I’ve gone through that journey and I can relate to the problems. And I will pass on my knowledge. Nowadays the youngsters are mature and they know what they want but if they think my knowledge will help them I will be more than happy to help.