Since 2010, many things have changed in international cricket. Several teams are in their transition phases due to the retirement of many greats since 2010. Many stalwarts of their respective international sides have hung their boots and started the new innings – ‘the after retirement life’.
Wasim shot into limelight as a 15-year-old school boy in 1993 when he scored an unbeaten 400 for Anjuman-e-Islam School against Marwari Vidyalaya in Bombay’s Inter School tournament. He has never looked back since then and deserves a huge pat on his back for all his laurels. His recent retirement from Ranji Trophy is a remarkable one as he was a performed in his long and illustrious career.
Wasim’s father was a bus driver and a great fan of Indian fast bowler Ramakant Desai and Pakistani batsman Hanif Mohammad. He wanted all his four sons to become good cricketers. The naturally gifted Wasim was encouraged by his brother Kaleem. In the first innings of a school tournament, his brother slapped Wasim for throwing away his wicket after scoring 77 runs but in the second, he responded by scoring an unbeaten 400 runs. Those lessons from his brother never throw away one’s wicket stayed with him all his life. By the time he was done, he had built a solid reputation for his ability to play many long innings.
A tall elegant batsman with a penchant for glorious drives on either side of the wicket, he was always a delight for the purists. Never the swashbuckler, like Sehwag or Patil he brought name and fame through patience. Took his time, but his languid style was poetry in motion. It was only a matter of time before he was picked for India. He made a forgettable debut in 2000 vs. SA quick’s and had to wait till 2002 to be picked again. Subsequently he started tasting some success but sadly came up short as compared to his phenomenal Ranji record. He opened against some of the best bowling attacks in the world and left a solid impression.
Wasim Jaffer’s 116 in Cape Town is the only instance of an Indian opener scoring a century in South Africa. Wasim is also amongst a small set of Indian Test openers to have recorded multiple double-centuries: he scored 212 against West Indies in Antigua in 2006 and then two years later came his 202 against Pakistan in Kolkata. Those two knocks meant Wasim is only one of five Indians – Virender Sehwag (six), Sunil Gavaskar (three), Mayank Agarwal, Vinoo Mankad the others – to achieve that feat.
Unfortunately, luck and fate did not back Wasim. He did not get picked for India since 2008 despite being a decent performer – 1944 runs from 31 Test matches. He was also considered good enough for only two One Day Internationals in South Africa and then ignored since 2006. Our openers suffered at the hands of Indian selectors and from Ashok Mankad, Ramesh Sexena, Devang Gandhi, Aakash Chopra and others.
At the beginning of the 2019-20 Ranji season, at the ripe “young” age of 42, Jaffer needed 853 runs to reach 20,000 first-class runs. However, he finished with 19,410 runs, which meant he is now fifth in the all-time list of highest run-scorers in Indian first-class cricket behind Gavaskar (25,834), Sachin Tendulkar (25,396), Rahul Dravid (23,794) and VVS Laxman (19,730). That is a herculean record and a prized name amongst some of the giants of Indian cricket.
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.
After scoring heavily for Bombay, he went on to play for Vidarbha and inspired many youngsters in the dressing room. An example for all cricketers who may not have gotten selected to play for India but never failed to give up on their efforts. Wasim proved a batsman’s job is to keep working on his batting and pile up runs in all matches.
It is better to quit when people ask why? and Wasim Jaffer did a great thing when he was in peak form and retired with his team Vidarbha brought to winning mould, thanks to the efforts of this veteran cricketer. Well done Wasim Jaffer.