There was a time back in the early 1900s, where cricket teams in India, especially Bombay, were formed strictly on communal lines. Go back to the records of some of the top players of that era, and you would find them playing for the Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, or the Europeans. But long gone are those days, or at least we thought so. The entire Wasim Jaffer and Cricket Association of Uttarakhand tussle has brought religion into the spotlight once again.
While both parties have their own versions, one is only left to wonder, how did the entire episode get a communal touch? Jaffer, who was appointed coach of Uttarakhand in June 2020, wasn’t happy with the working of the state association, and subsequently, quit. What followed was a series of accusations and counter-accusations by the parties involved. One questioned the professionalism of the body, while the other made serious allegations of communalizing the dressing room atmosphere, by inviting a maulvi to offer prayers & selecting players of a particular religion.
Jaffer, in his statement, made it clear that some of the undeserving players were given a nod without his consultation, while CAU brushed aside the allegations, citing the coach had ‘issues’. If all this was not enough, now CAU is also looking into the possible bio-bubble breach. All this, though uncalled for, has taken an ugly turn. Jaffer — who is the most prolific run-scorer in India’s domestic cricket history — his integrity is in question now.
He rightly said, “It is very disheartening and it is very sad, to be honest. I have worked with so much intensity and I was fully committed to being the coach of Uttarakhand. I always wanted to push the deserving candidates. It seemed like that I was fighting for every little thing. There was so much interference of the selectors, sometimes non-deserving players are being pushed."
“The secretary Mahim Verma has a lot of interference, whenever you talk to him, he says to talk to him. There were many roadblocks and he never responded to me. Towards the end, they selected the team for Vijay Hazare Trophy and I was not kept in the loop. They changed the captain, 11 players were changed, if things have to go down like this, then how can one work? I am not saying that I will select the team, but if you do not take my recommendation then what is the point of me being there."
“I told them if you have me here just give me some freedom. I have played my cricket very fairly so I will never let any unexpected thing happen and I will not let any deserving cricketer miss the chance. I had conveyed everything to them but unfortunately, things did not happen like that. It is very very sad if I need to sit there and talk about the communal angle."
Iqbal Abdulla, who played for Mumbai along with Jaffer and now plies his trade for Uttarakhand, has come forward and clarified, that the maulvi was only invited, after seeking permission from the team manager. Talking to Indian Express, he said, “We cannot offer Friday’s namaaz without a maulvi. We offered namaaz only when our practice got over at around 3:40 pm. I first asked Wasim bhai if I could call the maulvi for prayers. He told me to get permission from the team manager. I spoke to manager Navneet Mishra and he said, ‘koi nahi Iqbal, prayer-dharm first (no problem, prayer and religion is most important). The manager gave me the permission and that is why I asked the maulvi to lead the prayer.”
While the CAU is adamant with its own version of events that transpired, there seemed to be a lack of communication between the stakeholders of cricket in the state. Once again an inquiry has been launched to understand the matter better, but the damage seems to have already been done. Former cricketers, who worked or played with Jaffer are irked with whatever has surfaced in the last few days. Anil Kumble, Dodda Ganesh, Irfan Pathan and Amol Mazumdar, to name a few, have stood behind the former Uttarakhand coach’s decision to step down. This just shows the take of cricket fraternity on the entire episode.