Updated: February 11, 2021 10:54:41 am
Former India opener Wasim Jaffer’s resignation as Uttarakhand coach has triggered an ugly row — a kind unheard of in Indian cricket circles.
On Wednesday, a day after Jaffer, in his resignation letter, accused the Cricket Association of Uttarakhand (CAU) officials of pushing “undeserving players”, the state unit’s secretary, Mahim Verma, said he had received feedback from the team that Jaffer had “communalised” the dressing room atmosphere and “favoured” Muslim players.
Late in the evening, Jaffer, at an online press conference, said he felt “very sad” that he had to give an explanation for such allegations. “It’s the lowest one can go. These allegations of me being communal and giving this communal angle is sad,” said the all-time highest Ranji Trophy run-scorer.
Earlier in the day, speaking to The Indian Express, Verma said the Uttarakhand players had told him that during the team’s training session, Jaffer had invited a maulvi to the ground and even changed the team chant that hails Hanuman.
“Yesterday (Tuesday), a few players and support staff came to me and said a few things that were shocking. They told me that he (Jaffer) was communalising the team and favouring Muslims. Some players said they wanted to chant ‘Rambhakt Hanuman ki Jai’ but Jaffer said the team should change it to something else. Later, I was told that during our bio-bubble training sessions in Dehradun, a maulvi came and offered namaaz on the ground twice. How can a maulvi enter when a bio-bubble is in place. I told my players they should have informed me earlier, I would have taken action,” Verma said.
In his response, Jaffer said: “They said I called a maulvi and offered namaaz on the ground. First of all, I didn’t call a maulvi; it was Iqbal Abdullah who called him. On Friday, we needed a maulvi to offer namaaz. Iqbal asked me, and I said yes. The practice was over and we offered namaaz inside the dressing room. This happened only twice or thrice, that too before the bio-bubble was put in place.”
“There are allegations of me not allowing players to chant ‘Jai Hanuman Jai’. First of all, no players chanted any slogan. We have a few players who are from the Sikh community, and they used to say ‘Rani Mata Sache Darbar ki Jai’. So, I once suggested that we should have something like “Go Uttarakhand” or “Come on, Uttarakhand” instead. Like, when I used to be with Vidarbha, the team had “Come on, Vidarbha” as its slogan. And it wasn’t me who chose the slogan, it was left to the players,” he said.
“If I was communal, I would have said let’s say ‘Allah hu Akbar’. I would have scheduled practice in the morning so that I can offer my namaaz in the afternoon,” he said.
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Jaffer was appointed Uttarakhand coach last year – his contract was for one season. Following his appointment, Jaffer hand-picked three professional players – Jay Bista, Iqbal Abdullah and Samad Fallah — from outside the state to play for Uttarakhand. Former Mumbai player Abdullah was named captain for the Syed Mushtaq domestic T20 tournament.
“Jaffer was interfering too much. He was not even listening to the selection committee. During one meeting, he told me, ‘aap ko cricket nahi pata (you don’t know about cricket)’. His behaviour became an issue, not only with me but even for the selection committee. We gave him a free hand but he wanted total control which is not acceptable,” Verma said.
Jaffer, who has close to 20,000 first class runs, said in his resignation letter that he felt “really sad for the players”. “I genuinely think that they have a lot of potential and can learn so much from me but are denied this opportunity because of so much interference & bias of selectors and secretary in the selection matters for non-deserving players,” he wrote.
At the press conference, he said that if his activities were so objectionable he should have been sacked earlier. “These things came up after I resigned. If they knew that I was doing such kind of activities they should have sacked me. It’s me who resigned on my own,” he said.
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