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Wasim Jaffer: 40 years and going strong


Wasim_Jaffer_India_CricketWasim Jaffer’s journey with Indian cricket is a tale of contradictions and paradoxes. On the one hand, he will look back with satisfaction – for he received all that he yearned for and much more; but at the same time he will look back at the missed chances and ponder over the dreams that went unfulfilled and unrealised.

For the cricket lover who started following the game religiously in the mid-2000s, the Mumbaikar was an image of resolute grit at the top of the order. He was solid. He was gutsy. He was patient and one could notice the unmistakable glint of determination in his eyes whenever he set foot on a cricket field. The flick of the wrists and the perfectly-timed drives showed his panache and his technique.

After having impressed the Indian selectors with a triple hundred in just his second Ranji game, back when triple centuries were fewer and further in between, he made his Test debut in 2000 under the captaincy of his icon Sachin Tendulkar – yet another Mumbaikar, who had scripted his own journey in international cricket.

Young Jaffer dreamt of achieving similar feats for India, only to see them shot down a few games into his international career. He was dropped from the Indian side in 2002, with question marks over his mental strength and his ability to grind it out on the grand stage.

When he returned in 2006, the pile of runs argued that he was here to stay. He made three centuries, including a double ton, and four half centuries in 2007 – a year when he finished as the second highest run-scorer in Tests for India. Just when the expectations increased, and he started aiming even higher, he was dropped after poor performance in two series, never to get a chance again.


Was it his iffy technique? Was it the fact that he belonged to Mumbai – with cricketers from the city often subject to the bias of the selectors? Or was it his meek nature that was mistaken for a lack of aggression in the age of chest-bumps and roaring high-fives? We will never know.


But what we do know is that instead of allowing his whole life to be defined by pity, where he would be constantly considered the tragic hero, he set out to carve out his own legacy. Instead of being the cricketer who could have achieved more, he was going to end his career as the player who was at his consistent best whenever he took the field, albeit in the domestic format.

He had the choice of taking the easy route towards commentary or signing up for a lucrative IPL deal as a member of the coaching staff, but his passion lay in piling up the runs. The next few years were directed towards just that.

Ten years since his last Test match for India, the 40-year old is an aged warrior who is far from enjoying his final moment in the sun. His innings of 286 in the Irani Cup once again showed his unadulterated love towards the game. The way he has taken on the added responsibility of tutoring the younger players from his new team, Vidarbha, highlights his intention of giving back to the game in every way possible.


He averages over 50 in the domestic circuit. He has over 18,000 First-Class runs but is never satisfied. When he realised that he could be holding up a spot in Mumbai’s First-Class team, he switched to join Vidarbha, where chances of success were not as great. However, with 595 runs at an average of 54, he changed that as well, and his wise words led the team to their first ever Ranji title.


Looking back on his career, it comes to attention Jaffer has managed to achieve all that he would have dreamt of when he set off from the chawl in his younger days. 31 Test matches, though he would have loved to add a few more. A tough double hundred in St. John’s and a hundred at Cape Town. An IPL contract that brought with it enough money to help him and his family shift base to a wealthier neighbourhood in Mumbai. A promising nephew who look likely to carry the family name to newer heights.

What keeps players like him going? What enables him to score 286 at a strike-rate of over 66 against a side that had one of the most threatening off-spinners in subcontinental conditions?

What allows players like Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Leander Paes, who too have crossed 40, to keep going, even though they know that the influx of younger and fitter players have meant that they must remain at the top of their game physically and mentally on all occasions to stand a chance in the competitive stream?

It is passion. But more than that, it is the ability and willingness to improve. To keep going harder when faced with an obstacle. It is about challenging yourself and changing according to the plans that life has in store for us.

When Jaffer was shoved aside from the Test squad, instead of moping, he chose to stamp his authority in another arena. With that, he leaves behind a message for all.


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