posted on 2018-10-26 16:59:24
posted by Yash Kashikar
Image Credit: hindustantimes.com
It is rightly said that there are three P's to success- Passion, Patience and Perseverance. These three adjectives have been exemplified by a certain gentleman from Mumbai with unparalleled expertise ever since he has stepped out on the 22 yards. And yet his tale remains confined to only those matches that are played in empty stadiums.
However, Wasim Jaffer has long made peace with the bitter fact of eluded international stardom. And thus, twenty-three years after making his first-class debut and amassing a jaw-dropping 18110 runs, the marathon man of Indian cricket refuses to slow down. After a trophy-laden journey with Mumbai for close to two decades, Jaffer, in 2015, decided to bid goodbye to his home side to make way for the upcoming youngsters and joined Vidarbha.
With his indispensable experience, coach Chandrakant Pandit's never-say-die attitude and the emergence of some talented young guns, Vidarbha scripted history by clinching their maiden Ranji Trophy title last year.
Recently on the sidelines of Vidarbha's practice session in Nagpur, the veteran cricketer opened up about his unending love for the game, his role at Vidarbha, preparations for the upcoming season, his journey ahead and a lot more, in an exclusive conversation with CricXtasy.
Q. Well, first and foremost, 40 and still going strong. What keeps you motivated?
Jaffer: I think the love and passion for the game is still there and that is what keeps me going. The way Vidarbha played last year gave me a lot of happiness and satisfaction. We went on to win the Ranji Trophy and the Irani Cup, and when you play in a winning atmosphere it gives you a lot of happiness. Also, to see so many youngsters do well and to see us defeating the top sides makes me enjoy the game even more. Of course, this year the pressure of repeating the same kind of performance is there and we are looking forward to it.
Q. You have always been someone who has loved challenges. How do you manage to stay fit even at this stage in your career?
Jaffer: I think it is very important to look after your fitness, especially, when things get a bit difficult after 30s. You need to look after yourself to be in good shape and that requires a lot of discipline in respect to your diet and overall lifestyle. So, I have tried to do that. To be honest, I have been really lucky to have the kind of trainers and physios we have got here in Nagpur, and also in Mumbai, who make sure I am in good shape.
Q. When you decided to leave Mumbai, you must have had many offers. So, what made you choose Vidarbha over other teams?
Jaffer: When I left Mumbai, I wanted to go where I could make a mark and contribute in terms of helping the youngsters. I did not want to go just for the sake of money and I have never quite liked the idea of going where the team was losing and you don't enjoy your game. I simply don't like that environment.
Vidarbha seemed to be the right choice in that aspect. Obviously, it was close to Mumbai as well and they had a good set-up in their academy. However, most importantly they had the desire to win and do well. Eventually, the results are there for everyone to see.
Q. Your role at Vidarbha is not just as a professional but also as a mentor. And now that youngsters like Sanjay Ramaswamy and Rajneesh Gurbani are making their mark at the higher level as well, on a personal note, it must be very satisfying for you.
Jaffer: Of course, it gives me immense satisfaction. Not only these two (S Ramaswamy and R Gurbani) but there are a lot of other youngsters and it is very pleasing to see them do well. Any player who goes from here and does well at the higher level, really makes me very happy.
Q. You've won eight titles previously with Mumbai, but then you hit the winning runs for Vidarbha last year. That feeling must surely be different. Please talk us through that moment.
Jaffer: Whether you hit the winning runs or not, it is just the feeling of being a part of the winning team which is a different ball game altogether. And as they say that winning is everything and I always feel that you enjoy only after you win. It doesn't matter how good your individual performance is. If you don't win, it doesn't make you happy. And that's the culture I and the coach (Chandrakant Pandit) want to inculcate. Of course, we should play fairly but the attitude and approach is to win the game, no matter who is the opponent.
And obviously, now that we have won the Ranji Trophy and Irani Cup, the expectations are definitely high. Last time we were an unknown quantity and nobody took us quite seriously but now teams will come prepared and hopefully, we will be better prepared than them.
Q. Everyone has been praising Chandrakant Pandit ( the coach) for the change in the team's attitude. What according to you makes him different from others?
Jaffer: He brings a lot of discipline within the group and doesn't like the players to think on an individual basis. I think it is very important to have an atmosphere in the side where the team is everything. And he has been able to do that. We have always had very good individual players but then everyone has to gel together eventually, and play as one unit.
So, he made sure that nobody took their place for granted, which at times can happen in smaller states. He pushed each and every player to play better and that has ultimately done wonders for the side.
Q. You joined Vidarbha in the 2015-16 season and now when you sit back and think, what major change do you find in the team over the last few years or so?
Jaffer: To be honest, I am a little sad looking at the way we have played in the shorter formats over the last couple of years. We are a far better team in one day cricket as compared to our performance. At the same time, earlier we were not very good in the longer format. We used to play well at home but could not make a mark outside. That is something which has changed now. But then, we must be consistent across all the formats. We need to be one of those sides which consistently keeps on beating the top teams. That is how you earn the respect from your opponents. Hopefully, we should be able to do that.
Q. Before last season nobody gave Vidarbha a chance. But now that they will be playing with the tag of 'Defending champions', how much of a challenge will it be for the youngsters to rise up to the expectations?
Jaffer: I think this is when we will probably get to know the character of the players. Obviously, there will be one or two youngsters who will come into the side but then the majority of the players would be the same as last year. So, the core group is still pretty young and they will play for good 5-6 years from here on. Eventually, it is about repeating the same thing and not putting undue pressure on ourselves. If we click together as a unit and each and every player does his job well, then we can repeat the same performance definitely.
Q. How have the preparations been going on for the upcoming season? What is the overall mood in the dressing room?
Jaffer: It's been alright even though we have had to shift to Jamtha because of the U-19 games going on in VCA (Civil lines stadium). But then, that shouldn't really be an excuse and by the time the first game comes, we should be up and ready to go. It is the responsibility of every individual to get themselves prepared and I am sure we will be able to rise up to the occasion.
Q. Nine new teams have been added in Ranji Trophy this year. How important is their addition to the growth of Indian cricket and do you think any of these teams can actually end up surprising everyone?
Jaffer: They will be a part of the plate group where all the new teams take on each other. So only one team among them will qualify for the knockout stages and to be honest, I will be surprised if they end up beating any side from the elite group. However, it's a really good move which will definitely help young cricketers from these areas. It's a great opportunity for them to play at the Ranji level and hopefully, over the next 2-3 years, they will also become a force to reckon with.
Q. Let’s talk a bit about your international career now. You have scored a double hundred against Pakistan in Kolkata and you were also a part of the team that won a Test series in England. So, can you please recall back those fond memories?
Jaffer: Playing for the nation is always a great honour and I find myself very fortunate and honoured to have been able to do so. I played in the era of greats like Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid, Kumble and Srinath. So, I was really lucky to share the dressing room with these players and make a little bit of contribution along the way. Of course, I could have done a lot better but there are no regrets, to be honest. I believe in destiny, and on the fact that you get what you deserve. As an individual, you give your best and then leave all other things in the hands of the Almighty. That's my philosophy.
Q. Over the years, why has the Indian team not done justice to their potential outside Asia?
Jaffer: I think we were extremely competitive in the recent series against England. To be honest, I don't think we have been that competitive before this tour. Almost every Test match was a very tight affair. But then, it is the crucial stages in the game where you need to capitalize and that is where England was better than us. If we would have batted a bit better, things could have been different. But then, that's done and dusted and we should now focus on the upcoming Australia tour.
We all know that we can beat anybody at our home but to be called the number one side, we need to do well in countries like Australia, England, South-Africa and New-Zealand. If we don't win outside India, we don't really deserve to be called the number one side in the world. And I firmly believe that this team has the potential to do that and it's just a matter of finding a couple of right pieces for that jigsaw puzzle.
Q. Over the years, Mumbai has given a lot of great players to Indian cricket. Now, Prithvi Shaw has come up through the ranks. And a lot of people are comparing him with Sachin Tendulkar. What are your views over that?
Jaffer: I think it's very unfair not just with Sachin but with anybody for that matter. Everyone has their own individuality. Of course, Prithvi has started his Test career really well and without a doubt, he is a very exciting talent. But there is no way you can compare him to somebody who has played 200 Test matches and represented the nation for 24 years. It's very unfair and by doing that, we are putting too much pressure on him. However, I am absolutely sure that he is a great find and we all want him to do well not just in India but outside as well.
Q. Do you think IPL has become a benchmark for selection in the Indian team over the last few years or so? Is it the way forward for Indian cricket?
Jaffer: It has definitely become one of the benchmarks rather than the only benchmark. Let us say, if somebody has a very good Ranji season but doesn't get a chance to play in IPL then I don't think he is considered for the Indian side. On the other hand, if you do well in IPL it is much easier to get into the national team, which is unfortunate, to be honest. However, without a doubt, it is a very good platform for the youngsters to showcase their talent. If they do well in front of a jam-packed crowd against the best in the world then it surely tells you that the player has the potential.
Q. At 40, having achieved almost everything in the domestic circuit, what is the road ahead for Wasim Jaffer and have you given a thought as to how your second innings would look like?
Jaffer: I just want to enjoy my game as long as I can do it and pass on some knowledge and inputs to the youngsters. That is something which gives me a lot of satisfaction. So, as long as I am happy doing it, I will carry on. And the moment I feel it's time to call it a day, I will do that. Of course, commentary and coaching are the two options ahead but to be honest, I haven't really thought about it. I don't think too far ahead, that's not the way I look at life. Anything that comes up at that particular stage I will think about it.
Q. Your message to the youngsters who want to take up the game?
Jaffer: More than anything else, enjoy the game and play it in the right spirit. Everything else is simply a by-product. Don't think too far ahead and keep working hard. If you give it your all then you will definitely get the results.