by Amol Muzumdar
Wasim Jaffer was a complete package, he had it all — the correct technique, temperament, calmness, and the elegance. To play 25 years, retaining the same hunger he had as a debutant, is absolutely extraordinary and remarkable feat.
I still remember the day when he walked into the Mumbai dressing room in 1995 to be part of the team that was about to play a quarter-final against Tamil Nadu. Next season, in ’96, he made his debut for Mumbai. There was already a buzz about his big runs in school cricket. He looked special in the Mumbai nets sessions. It was evident that this boy is here to stay. I enjoyed Wasim’s company the most in the dressing room.
His calmness was quite something. You have to have a cool head while batting. You can’t be hot headed. He had achieved that calmness.
What I liked about Wasim’s game was that he batted in a correct way, purists’ way as its said. What I loved most about that quality is that Wasim dominated oppositions with that approach. He had so many levels to his game. Domination can be of any nature — it’s not just filled with shots (which he had). It could be a dominance of stubbornness, domination by piling runs and hitting the gaps.
He played many great knocks but two in particular stand out for me, the two that I had seen from the other end.
The 160-odd he scored against Baroda at Baroda in 2001-02 season. We had a big partnership. Mumbai were 5 for 2, I got to my hundred towards the end of the day but his 160 had come before tea! It was unbelievable knock. Between lunch and tea, he was hitting three boundaries in an each over.
There is another knock of 267 against Delhi in 2005 — arrey, baap-rey-baap! What a knock that was. He just slammed fours — in just a day, he scored 206 runs. I can still visualise it — each over, there would be an on drive, straight drive, cover drive. Three boundaries in each over. I just laughed from the other end. I said, ‘bhai ka table tennis chalo hogaya! (Jaffer hit 38 fours and 3 sixes)
Remember this innings came in the pre-IPL era. No fancy shots, just clean hitting. It was as if he was saying, you bowl, I will hit. Few people earned the respect as he has done across teams, no one has dared to sledge him; such was the respect.
And fear, I would say. Over the years, we in the Mumbai team have heard the opposition fielders say, “bhai ko jaldi nikalo, warna yeh pahuncha dega” (Get him out, else he will send us packing). If any young generation player wants to learn the art of batsmanship, they should see Wasim’s batting.
Wasim was like Buddha in batting. Never showed any emotions. Even if he had got out for zero or hit a hundred, his body language always remained cool, ekdum thanda. He didn’t speak much, he used to do his work. And his work spoke louder than words.
Another admirable quality was his commitment to the game itself. He never differentiated, gave it all irrespective of the stature of the match or the teams he played. He may be batting in Times Shield (the corporate tournament), or a local club game, or for Mumbai, or for India — he never compromised, gave it all. At all levels, from poppatwadi attacks (easy bowling units) to the toughest, he scored runs in his elegant style.
Look, how he scored runs in the recent past, at this age; and not just in India, but in the club and leagues in England. Players like Wasim set a benchmark for themselves; they keep raising their game always. With his talent, I feel he should have played for India more than the 31 Test matches. It wasn’t the accurate testimony to his talent; he could have done better and scored a lot more runs. But, at the same time, I feel there will be only one Wasimbhai.
(Amol Muzumdar captained Mumbai. He spoke to Devendra Pandey)
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