A plastic chair in one hand, the bat held in the other, Wasim Jaffer strolled near the boundary line to soak up the sun and the cricket. He sat peering out at the middle where Vidarbha openers Faiz Fazal and Sanjay Ramaswamy, the latter mentored by him, started the reply to Uttarakhand’s 355. A short while later, Jaffer asked for an ice pack which was quickly given to him – at 40, the marathon run machine does need some servicing before going out to bat.
At this stage in his career, more than his headspace, the manner in which others react to him reflects Jaffer’s aura and importance. Pritam Gandhe, former Vidarbha player, gushed at the sight of Jaffer sitting in his chair. “Ab babaji ney samadhi le li hai, (babaiji is in a trance now), now we don’t know what will happen!” Up above in a corporate box, Jatin Paranjpe, national selector and a former teammate of Jaffer, is also in a rave mood. The respect for Jaffer is at its apex these days.
And why not? When he eventually went out to bat, he returned with an unbeaten hundred — his fourth this season. Jaffer shepherded the out-of-form Ramaswamy, who was roped into the playing eleven at the last moment, a gut call from coach Chandrakant Pandit, and who responded with his first ton of the season.
Ramaswamy had just 101 runs in eight innings this year before being dropped. But he should thank umpire Sudhir Asnani. When he was on 7, Asnani ruled him out lbw off left-arm spinner Mayank Mishra. A surprised Ramaswamy suggested that he had got an inside edge and Asnani reversed his decision, realising his mistake. That was the jailbreak moment for Ramaswamy, who started to prosper under Jaffer’s guidance.
The pair go back a long way. Last year, before the Ranji Trophy commenced, Ramaswamy was cornered by an angry Jaffer. “What’s wrong with you? Why won’t you talk to me and seek some help. That’s why I am here, to help youngsters like you.”
For the next seven hours, Jaffer helped Ramaswamy iron out a flaw in his trigger movement – both his feet were moving back and across, messing up the alignment of the body and he was left clueless about his off-stump. Jaffer instructed him to just move his back leg and wasn’t just content with passing the advice. From noon to 7 pm, the veteran closely monitored the course correction over 600 balls.
For his part, Jaffer was at ease on Wednesday, starting off with couple of off-driven fours against offspinner Malolan Rangarajan. As ever, he used his feet well to the spinners and, with a still head and those supple wrists, kept unfurling the drives. When the bowlers tried to bowl short, he reeled off a few pull shots. He reached his hundred with a single, lifted his bat towards the dressing room – his face almost emotionless. Just another hundred in a remarkable professional career. His ton had come off 129 balls with 13 fours.
Ramaswamy, understandably, was more expressive when he hit a cover drive to bring up his first hundred of the season. He leaped and punched the air and Jaffer understood the significance of the moment – he ran to pat his younger teammate. It was the third hundred of the day after Uttarakhand’s Saurabh Rawat, overnight on 68, went on to score 108 to take his team past 350.
Brief scores: Uttarakhand 355 (Rawat 108, Yadav 4-90) lead Vidarbha 260/1 (Jaffer 111*, Ramaswamy 112*) by 95 runs