An accidental meeting with Virender Sehwag helped Armaan Jaffer bounce back from an injury and bring his career back on track with a triple hundred in the Under-23 CK Nayudu. It was a Sehwag-esque knock too, with the prodigiously-gifted 20-year-old from Bandra smashing 26 fours and 10 sixes en route to an unbeaten 300 off 367 balls against Saurashtra at the Wankhede Stadium. Stuck with a knee injury (anterior cruciate ligament tear to be more precise), Jaffer feared his career was drifting away when he ran into the former India opener at a Mumbai hotel.
The nephew of Wasim Jaffer has been a prolific scorer in age-group cricket and, along with Prithvi Shaw and Sarfaraz Khan, has been part of a Mumbai trifecta tipped for big things in Indian cricket. The injury last year, however, shoved him into anonymity for 14 months.
That day at the hotel, after some small talk, Sehwag, who had come to promote a T10 league and who knew Jaffer from his days at Kings XI Punjab, enquired about his career. “I told him I suffered the injury, while warming up for a Mumbai U-23 game,” Jaffer recalled. After listening to him, Sehwag told him: “Arre idhar kya raha hai (then what you doing here?) Go to NCA, the national cricket academy in Bangalore.”
Sehwag then called up NCA to apprise them of Jaffer’s situation and help him out. He then called PV Shetty, the joint-secretary of Mumbai Cricket Association, to help sort out Jaffer’s stay in Bangalore.
“I wasn’t expecting this from Viru bhai, I mean the way he showed concern left me speechless. When you are injured nobody cares for you except few people. Unka badapan hai. (It shows his large-heartedness). Even before I had reached Viru bhai had called NCA twice asking ke whether I have reached there or not. Shetty sir helped me with accommodation and flight tickets.”
Jaffer worked under the care of NCA physio Aashish Kaushik, who advised rest initially before slowly starting on the rehab programmes.
On Friday, Jaffer bounced back in some style. And the first call he made after the triple hundred was to Sehwag. “He had told me to keep in touch and inform him once I started playing cricket. So, I just called him to say my thanks.”
He is still young and has his career and life in front of him, but it must not have been easy for a young kid to handle not just injury blues but also see his peers like Shaw march ahead. How did he handle it?
“It’s a reality, sochne ka matlab nahi hai iske baare mein, (there is no use thinking about it). There are regrets but it’s important to move on,” he says.
His is a remarkable tale of a passionate father Kaleem, elder brother of Wasim, who had become depressive after the fall out with his brother. On his wife’s urging, Kaleem turned to his son and daughter to make them cricketers. A coach with an unconventional coaching method has made both his kids do well in the sport. Until an injury threatened to derail young Armaan’s career, but with timely help from Sehwag it’s back on track.
He was away from cricket for 15 months and wasn’t sure when he joined Mumbai U-23 team for the CK Nayudu tournament. The ‘Jaffer’ tag too hadn’t helped.
“Mere naam ke baad ‘Jaffer’ naam laga hai, so its natural people will high have high hopes from me. Everyone thinks I will also pile up big scores. There was pressure in the first game. There is difference in club cricket and this kind of cricket. And also, I had not great match practice behind me. First match we won, I scored 84. It gave me confidence but this innings has come at a right time,” he says, now hoping to get a Ranji Trophy call.