Veteran batsman Wasim Jaffer credited Vidarbha’s cricket administrators for the team’s Ranji Trophy victories in the last two seasons, saying the officials ‘work for cricket and not for themselves’. In doing so, Jaffer hinted that the same was not the case with Mumbai anymore.
Vidarbha successfully defended their Ranji Trophy title this year, beating Saurashtra in the final. Jaffer, who had moved from Mumbai to Vidarbha last season, himself played a big role scoring more than 1000 runs.
“It’s the vision of the administration. Mr Shashank Manohar put up the academy way back in 2009 and he is getting the results now," Jaffer told FirstPost. “It’s my personal opinion that once the administration has a view of improving cricket and cricket becomes a priority in their eyes, that is the time when the teams do well.
“I have seen that with Mumbai also but unfortunately that is not happening now. At Vidarbha, the people have the vision and they work for cricket and not themselves. Cricket and cricketers are their priority and that is why they are reaping the rewards.
“Not just at the top level but the U-14, they played the final, U-19 won the Vinoo Mankad Trophy, U-23 reached the semis of CK Nayudu Trophy. They are giving importance to cricket and hence reaping the rewards."
Jaffer conceded Vidarbha didn’t have as strong a base as Mumbai, but explained that the region’s players have an upper hand as they play matches more regularly.
“The (Vidarbha’s) base is very good. The club cricket they play there is competitive. I wouldn’t say it’s as competitive as Mumbai’s, but still, they play week in week out," he said.
“That is what I feel Mumbai cricketers are missing out on sometimes. The Mumbai cricketers don’t play that much, the knockout stages don’t allow them to do that. I personally feel that Mumbai cricket needs to be restructured. At the very least, they need to think about how the players playing A division cricket need to play every Saturday, Sunday.
“That’s when you will see a lot more talent coming through. Now-a-days, any good youngster who is playing for a weaker team might only play one game as his team has lost and he doesn’t get another game for next three-four weeks.
“So somewhere, Mumbai cricket is losing out on those talents. Mumbai cricket needs to restructure the tournaments and club cricket they play. And cricket needs to become a priority in the eyes of the administration. Because if the top management works well, automatically that reflects onto the players and cricket.
“The district players that come through in Vidarbha are very talented. You have seen in Ranji, there are so many good cricketers coming through from small places like Amravati, Akola and are doing well. They get the academy to stay, use the facilities which they don’t get at their respective places.
“Restructuring club and company cricket in Mumbai is something we need to look at. Probably Kanga League, do we still need a Kanga League? On paper it starts in July but when do we play it in July and August? We only at the end of September, so we lose out so many games.
“So why not think about it and run with the current time? The performance of Mumbai is showing in every team — U-16, U-19, U-23 — which is something very serious they need to look at. The administration people who take important decisions, they need to really sit back and take the right decisions in favour of cricket and cricketers."
Jaffer was critical of Mumbai’s decision to let go of Chandrakant Pandit two seasons back, saying Mumbai’s loss was Vidarbha’s gain. Under Pandit, Mumbai had won the Ranji Trophy in 2015-16 and finished runner-up the following year. Since losing Pandit, Mumbai had a quarter-final exit last season and failed to make it to the knockouts this year.
“Them losing Chandrakant Pandit has become the biggest gain for Vidarbha. If the administration had cricket in their mind, they wouldn’t have ever let Pandit go because they played two finals under him, won one and lost one.
“So on the basis of pure performance, you would never let a coach like that go. But because probably cricket or cricketers are not their priority at the moment or the administration has something else in their mind.
“Why would you let a guy go who’s taken you to two finals and made you win a championship? Vidarbha is very lucky to have a guy like him who’s turned the fortunes around.
“I personally feel that the majority of the states in India need a coach like Chandrakant Pandit. They need a strict guy who can impart discipline into them and get them out of their comfort zone. Sometimes I feel players take their places for granted. Sometimes the harsh truth needs to be told, and that doesn’t happen.
“In a smaller state, if you get a hundred in a season, you can carry on to play the full season and probably the next one also. But in reality, to win a trophy or be successful, that is not enough. And that sometimes needs to be told."