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'If they don't play IPL, they won't get too far'

Last updated on: February 15, 2019 12:42 IST

'A player needs to have T20 skills otherwise he is not going to survive.'
'No matter how much runs you score in the Ranji Trophy or Duleep Trophy or Irani Trophy, if you don't have T20 skills in batting or bowling, you are not going to go too far.'

Rishabh Pant's IPL reputation booked him a place in the Indian team. Photograph: BCCI

IMAGE: Rishabh Pant's IPL reputation booked him a place in the Indian team. Photograph: BCCI

Wasim Jaffer firmly etched his name in the annals of Indian cricket as he helped Vidarbha win its second Ranji Trophy in a row, which also saw him claim his 10th Ranji Trophy title, including eight with Mumbai.

Even though he failed to hit the high notes in international cricket, featuring in just 31 Tests the last of which came in 2008, the 40 year old is not disheartened and continues to plunder runs at the domestic level.

This season he was back to his best as he scored 1,037 runs in 11 matches, hitting four centuries and two fifties, in the process became the only batsman to score over 1,000 runs in a Ranji season for the second time in his career.

He is also the first player to cross the landmark 11,000 runs in Ranji Trophy history.

"It would be foolish for any young cricketer to follow us (him, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane). They might play like us, but they need to have T20 skills in them also," Wasim Jaffer tells Rediff.com's Harish Kotian in the concluding segment of an exclusive interview.

Wasim Jaffer

IMAGE: Wasim Jaffer is the only batsman to score 11,000 runs in the Ranji Trophy. Photograph: PTI

Things were a bit desperate for you personally a few years back when you missed the 2016-2017 Ranji Trophy because of a knee injury suffered in the previous season.
Your employers Indian Oil wanted you to sit in office and work at a desk and quite a few teams had rejected your services before you joined Vidarbha as a professional and didn't charge them a single penny last season.
What made you take the decision to join this team without taking any payment?
Has that paid off by winning two Ranji titles in a row?

Definitely, it has paid off.

When I moved from Mumbai I wanted to join a team which has a vision of winning the Ranji Trophy or which has a vision of doing well or competing against the big teams.

I didn't want to join a weak team which didn't have a vision or anything in their mind about winning the Ranji Trophy.

I found Vidarbha had that kind of vision and they had those kinds of players. Fortunately for them, they had Chandrakant Pandit available so they signed him as coach.

I spoke to Pandit when he took over as coach before I made the decision to join Vidarbha. We have formed a good partnership.

Nobody expected Vidarbha to win even one Ranji title, leave alone two titles in a row.

It feels we are kind of leaving a legacy for Vidarbha cricket.

Wasim Jaffer

IMAGE: Wasim Jaffer hits a boundary during the first Test against South Africa, Chennai, March 2008. Photograph: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images

What were the highlights of the season for you personally?

The highlight for me was the outright win against Railways. That was a turning point for us.

Going into the match, everybody felt it was going to be a one innings (game). (Akshay) Karnewar played a very important knock in that game. He scored 94 which helped us take a big first innings lead and we ended up getting an outright win.

We knew that if we had to qualify, we need at least 3, 4 outright wins. Before that game we had only one outright win. We needed to push ourselves. That victory helped us get the momentum and climb up the table to third or fourth position.

You worked with Chandrakant Pandit at Mumbai. What makes him such a successful coach? He has won six titles as coach, four with Mumbai and two with Vidarbha.

His commitment, his seriousness in getting the team together, his work ethic, infusing the winning mentality into the side are some factors which have worked for him at Vidarbha.

He tells people the right things and he doesn't believe in being superficial.

If someone has not done well, then he will let them know. If somebody does well, he doesn't let them get carried away.

He knows how to tackle personalities and that has helped everyone here.

Did Mumbai make a big mistake when they released Pandit after they finished runners up in 2016-2017 having won the title the season before?

It was Mumbai's loss and Vidarbha's gain.

What do you think is going wrong with Mumbai cricket in the past few seasons? How can they get back to being the top team in Indian domestic cricket?

They need to look at the system, the club cricket system probably, that needs to change.

The administrators need to have a vision. They need to think about the betterment of Mumbai cricket.

They don't need to just think about themselves, but how to get Mumbai cricket where it was in the past.

They need to improve club cricket system because if club cricket becomes strong then Mumbai cricket will improve as they will get the cricketers.

If the youngsters play in a tough environment in club cricket, you will eventually get good cricketers coming through.

What changes would you suggest?

They need to look at playing club cricket in a league phase. Nowadays, the Purshottam Shield, the Padmakar Talim Shield, the Young Comrade Shield, they are all played on a knockout basis.

Apart from three or four teams, most of the other teams are pretty weak. So, all the good cricketers are playing in those three or four teams and those are the teams that eventually make it to the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.

Players in the other teams don't get the opportunity as their club teams get beaten in the first round. They have to wait for around four or five weeks to play another match in another tournament.

If those players play every weekend, then the selectors will notice that this guy has performed so much, scored so many runs or taken many wickets, and they will keep an eye open for those talents.

And because everybody gets to play on every weekend, the good cricketers, who are sitting out in a good team, they will probably go to a weaker team because they know they will get 8, 9 games.

The teams will have a fair challenge within themselves because the players who are sitting out, they have the opportunity to go to a weaker team and get games under their belt and their performances will be noticed.

If a player is playing 10 games, then the selectors will have more data on who is doing well and more talent will come through.

Wasim Jaffer

IMAGE: Wasim Jaffer celebrates his half-century during the second Test against England at Trent Bridge, July 2007. Photograph: Tom Shaw/Getty Images

Has players wanting to develop skills for T20 cricket rather than the longer format affected Mumbai cricket?

I think that has happened everywhere in India.

With the new generation, you will always have this problem.

Times have changed. That problem is not only in Mumbai, but all over India.

You need to find the best solution. How players can get the best match practice and how you can give them the best possible opportunity for them to have the same kind of environment ahead of the Ranji Trophy.

If the competition is too low, then obviously that bridge between local cricket and the Ranji Trophy becomes too hard. That didn't happen when I was playing because club cricket was strong. When we played Ranji Trophy we didn't feel that there was a big difference.

So they need to think on those lines and probably have 3, 4 tournaments where they play two-day games, they play one-day games, they play T20 games. They play every weekend, that is the most important thing.

They need to get 20, 25 games right throughout the season. Only then will you get the best talent coming through.

Having played so much for Mumbai and now against Mumbai in the last few years, have you noticed that the khadoos attitude is missing from Mumbai cricket?

Definitely! In the last two years, Mumbai cricket has come down quite drastically, at least performance wise.

Two years ago, they played the Ranji Trophy final (in 2016-2017) and they won it the year before.

The players are pretty much the same, so the problem lies in how they approach matches and how they play.

They haven't got many new players coming through, those are the same who won the Ranji Trophy.

They need to find out what is going wrong and solve it as quickly as possible because the other teams are picking up and it is not going to be easy for Mumbai.

You came through the grind to make it to the Indian Test team after scoring a lot of runs at the domestic level. Similarly, with Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane.
Nowadays we see players being picked from India Under-19 teams or India 'A' teams, sometimes even from IPL teams.
Some players make it to the Test team after playing a handful of Ranji Trophy games.

This is how the system is working now.

The times have changed. Nowadays, I feel a player needs to have T20 skills otherwise he is not going to survive.

No matter how much runs you score in the Ranji Trophy or Duleep Trophy or Irani Trophy, if you don't have T20 skills in batting or bowling, you are not going to go too far.

Obviously, they look into that and they prioritise their game accordingly to suit T20 cricket which I don't think is their fault. That is how the system works now and they want to get noticed.

They know if they don't play the IPL, they won't get too far.

The IPL gives them the benchmark for them to get picked for the Indian team.

You can't blame them because you need to have T20 skills otherwise you are not going to play too much cricket.

Cheteshwar Pujara

IMAGE: Cheteshwar Pujara, Man of the Series in the four Tests against Australia. Photograph: Mark Evans/Getty Images

So this is the last we see of the likes of cricketers like Wasim Jaffer or Cheteshwar Pujara or Ajinkya Rahane.

It would be foolish for younger players to follow us to be honest. We played in a time where there was hardly any T20 cricket, but nowadays there is so much T20 cricket.

It would be foolish for any young cricketer to follow us. They might play like us, but they need to have T20 skills in them also.

Do you wish you had been given more chances or a long enough run to prove your worth in Test cricket as is the case with players nowadays? You played just 31 Tests in a career spanning eight years from 2000 to 2008...

The talk is all about ifs and buts. I don't think too much about all those things. Whatever has happened has happened. I feel it has happened for the good.

There is no point saying in my time this has happened because if it is not relevant it doesn't make any sense.

What next? You are someone who likes to keep playing and be in the groove. Will you play club cricket in England?

Hopefully, I am not sure yet. At the end of the season, probably in a month or two, I will take a call and see where I am.

Will you return to Vidarbha next season and look to make it three Ranji Trophy titles in a row?

Hopefully... hopefully!

Harish Kotian / Rediff.com
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