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Professional Players & Sporting Wickets Helping Smaller Teams Flourish in Ranji Trophy: Wasim Jaffer

By: Arnab Sen

Edited By: Arnab Sen

Cricketnext

Last Updated: January 02, 2018, 15:39 IST

(Wasim Jaffer/ PTI)

(Wasim Jaffer/ PTI)

Jaffer, who has been associated with Vidarbha since 2015-16 season, was a run machine for Mumbai at the top of the order. But his role as a professional cricketer with a smaller team like Vidarbha has been different. The former India opener actually singled out the role of professional cricketers as a major catalyst in improving the fortunes of smaller teams.

Wasim Jaffer had seen it all in his 21-year long first class career. So, when the 39-year old veteran came out to bat in the final of this season's Ranji Trophy, he didn't have much to lose. Jaffer though didn't know how to lose a Ranji final, as he had been in eight of them before and won them all with the indomitable Mumbai.

Vidarbha, eyeing their maiden title, were in a spot of bother with their two top scorers this season, captain Faiz Fazal and Ganesh Satish, back in the hut and Delhi's first innings total of 295 still far away. This is when Jaffer decided to play his most telling knock of the season as he camped at one end and took Vidarbha to safety despite wickets falling around him. His efforts coupled with that of the lower order gave Vidarbha a big first innings lead and that paved the way for a fairytale end to the season for Vidarbha. A proud Jaffer says he knew the team had the potential to go a long way this season but winning the title is a bonus, during an exclusive chat with Cricketnext.

"When I left Mumbai no one really thought I will play another Ranji trophy final, leave alone winning the title. And to be honest, neither did anyone in the Vidarbha team think it could be possible. But I was always hopeful of this team doing well. During the pre-season camp I could see that the team had lot of talented players and if they played as a team, something special could happen."

"My predictions came true as we started playing and to win the title is a dream come true for these players. It is a different territory for these boys and perhaps a big stepping stone in their career," said Jaffer, the highest run-scorer in the history of India's elite domestic tournament.

Jaffer, who has been associated with Vidarbha since 2015-16 season, was a run machine for Mumbai at the top of the order. But his role as a professional cricketer with a smaller team like Vidarbha has been different. He has batted in the middle-order to provide much needed steel and has played his role in the development of youngsters. The former India opener actually singled out the role of professional cricketers as a major catalyst in improving the fortunes of smaller teams.

"Professional players help in building a winning mentality. Their experience comes in handy during pressure situations and the youngsters can learn a lot from them. I remember the kind of effect the likes of Aakash Chopra and Hrishikesh Kanitkar had on the Rajasthan team, when they went on to win their maiden title."

"Infrastructure also plays a huge part in the development of a team and the likes of Andhra, Kerala and Gujarat have led the way in the recent years. Even in Vidarbha, the administrators deserve a pat on their back for improving the facilities," the former Mumbai captain said.

Jaffer, who is the only batsman to breach the ten thousand-run mark in Ranji Trophy, said that sporting wickets and the home and away format is helping in bringing about a level playing field in Ranji Trophy, that is in turn helping the smaller teams beat the established order.

"To win the Ranji Trophy these days you need a good bowling attack and that's what we had this time. Gone are the days when matches were played on belters. The quality of the pitches have improved and a major reason for the that is the involvement of BCCI curators. Sporting pitches help produce better cricketers."

The veteran batsman also heaped praise on paceman Rajneesh Gurbani, who played a pivotal role in Vidarbha's success as he picked up 39 wickets this season, and finished as the second highest wicket-taker.

"He was the spearhead of the attack. Although Umesh played in the semi-final, but Rajneesh led from the front. He in fact did well in the knockouts and that is what matters. Players having a big game temperament always have an extra edge. He has a long way to go as this is only his second season but his performances augur well for Vidarbha as well as Indian cricket," the veteran of 241 first-class matches said.

Jaffer also singled out coach Chandrakant Pandit as the man responsible for the turnaround in the fortunes of Vidarbha.

"Lot of credit goes to Chandrakant Pandit as he brought these players out of their comfort zone. He helped improve the fitness of the players and made them believe in their abilities."

"From the first match itself the focus was on the performance of the entire team and not on individual goals. Pandit helped in making the boys play as a team. He organised a lot of group activities and that is the kind of bonding needed in a long tournament like Ranji Trophy," Jaffer said.

Talking about his own international career, which lasted 31 Test matches, Jaffer said that he doesn't regret not getting a call-up post 2008 despite scoring a bagful of runs in domestic cricket.

"My international career is a long way back in the past and I don't really think about it anymore. I am a firm believer in destiny and I don't regret things that have not happened. I should be thankful that I got to represent my country at least and I did that for 31 Test matches. That was and will always remain the proudest moment of my life, that I played for my country. I still enjoy playing the sport and have the motivation in me to help youngsters. Hopefully I will continue," said Jaffer, who has 1944 runs under his belt in Test cricket.

Talking about India's tour to South Africa, Jaffer said that the Indian team has a good chance because of it's strong bowling unit. He also said that Murali Vijay and KL Rahul are capable of giving India good starts.

"India has a strong chance this time as this is a very motivated and talented bunch. The first day of the first Test will be crucial and India needs to take the initiative and build on that momentum. Shikhar seems to be injured right now and in his absence KL Rahul can forge a good partnership with Murali Vijay. Rahul has a good technique while Vijay has showed his class outside the sub-continent." the nine-time Ranji champion signed off.