Dubai: Wasim Jaffer, hailed as India’s domestic cricket giant, has finally called it a day - but not before leaving a legacy of 19,410 hard-earned run runs with 57 centuries in first-class cricket.
Jaffer, who turned 42 on February 16, inspired many on how to remain motivated and keep scoring runs and earn respect - despite being ignored for the national team after a brief stint.
His records include not only the highest number of runs in the Ranji trophy but also maximum centuries (40), most catches (200), the highest run-scorer in Duleep Trophy (2545) and the Irani Cup (1294). He is also the only batsman to cross 1000 runs per Ranji season twice in 2008-09 and 2018-19.
Jaffer was a 15-year-old boy when I first meet him. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to him twice and on both occasions after he’d played two marathon knocks.
The first instance was 27 years ago in 1993, when as a 15-year-old school boy he’d scored an unbeaten 400 for Anjuman-e-Islam School against Marwai Vidyalaya in Mumbai’s (then Bombay) inter School tournament. I was one among the many sports reporters who had rushed to speak to him after that big knock.
I really laud Jaffer on becoming the highest scorer in Ranji Trophy. To score 12,000 runs in Ranji Trophy is indeed amazing. He is one of the best performers in domestic cricket. He did well in Test cricket too by scoring double hundreds in West Indies and at home.
Jaffer’s tale would be a sports writer’s delight. His father was a bus driver and a great fan of Indian fast bowler Ramakant Desai and Pakistan batsman Hanif Mohammad and he wanted all his four sons to become good cricketers. The naturally talented Jaffer was encouraged by his brother Kaleem. In the first innings of the schools tournament, his brother slapped Jaffer for throwing away his wicket after scoring 77 runs but in the second, he responded by scoring an unbeaten 400 runs! That lesson from his brother ‘to never throw away one’s wicket’ stayed with him all his life.
My second meeting was much later in 2007 during the Kolkata Test match against Pakistan when he’d cracked 202 runs. On the first day, he remained unbeaten on 192 and completed his double century the next day. When asked about his knock, he said that he too wanted to be a player like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, and VVS Laxman who would be respected by the opposition. In that Test match which ended in draw, Laxman and Ganguly too cracked centuries and India piled up a score of 616 for six declared.
Unfortunately, luck and fate did not back Jaffer. He did not get picked for India since 2008 despite being a decent performer in the opportunities - 1944 runs from 31 Test matches. In his last series, a three-Test one against South Africa, he scored 73 in the first Test. He was also considered good enough for only two One Day Internationals in South Africa and then ignored since 2006.
Speaking to Gulf News, former India and Mumbai captain Dilip Vengsarkar, whom Jaffer has often approached for advice, remarked: “I really laud Jaffer on becoming the highest scorer in Ranji Trophy. To score 12,000 runs in Ranji Trophy is indeed amazing. He is one of the best performers in domestic cricket. He did well in Test cricket too by scoring double hundreds in West Indies and at home.
“Unfortunately for him in the England and South Africa tours, he could not convert his thirties into hundreds and that failure went against him. He was extremely talented and always had a lot of time at his disposal to play his shots. He scored fluently even in his 40s and always had a tremendous appetite for runs. After scoring heavily for Mumbai, he went on to play for Vidarbha and inspired youngsters in the dressing room. He is an ideal example for all cricketers who may not have got selected to play for India but never failed to give up on their efforts. Jaffer proved a batsman’s job is to keep working on his batting and pile up runs in all matches.”
Four highest run-getters in Ranji Trophy
Wasim Jaffer, 12,038 runs, played for Mumbai and Vidarbha
Amol Muzumdar, 9202 runs, played for Mumbai, Assam, Andhra
Devendra Bundela, 9201 runs, played for Madhya Pradesh
Mithun Manhas, 8554 runs, played for Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir
Jaffer in numbers
Tests: 31, 1944 runs, centuries 5, half centuries 11
ODIs: 2, 10 runs.
First class: 260, 19,410 runs, centuries 57, half centuries 91