MUMBAI: It wasn’t the sort of clarification that a former India opener and a domestic stalwart like Wasim Jaffer should have been forced to give.
A day after he resigned as Uttarakhand’s head coach, Jaffer rubbished a report in which Cricket Association of Uttarakhand (CAU) officials had alleged that he had a “communal” mindset and was promoting religious activities and was biased towards players of his religion in the team.
Citing the need to address a presser via a zoom call at the last minute on Wednesday, an emotional and visibly, and naturally ‘extremely hurt’ Jaffer said: “I had to clear everything. The allegations which have been made are serious in nature, and I will have to give my side (of the story). I have given all the reasons for my resignation in my e-mail (to CAU). But yeh joh communal angle lagaya hai (referring to allegations of him being communal in approach), that is very, very sad. That I (have to) come and speak about it… you all know me have seen me for a long time, so you all know how I am,” said the former Mumbai captain.
The report quoted Uttarakhand manager Navneet Mishra as saying that Jaffer had invited three Maulvis to the team’s camp in Dehradun. “Those Maulvis would come only on Fridays to help us offer Namaz, because that Namaz is like a gathering for us. Only an expert can help us offer it. We used to offer this Namaaz only after practice post 3 pm in our dressing room. It wasn’t me who called the Maulvis, but Iqbal Abdulla, who knew someone in Dehradun, and took permission from me to do so, because there were three-four (Muslim) players in the team. Our team manager (Navneet Mishra) knew about this permission. If there was a communal angle to it, then, being the head coach, I could have started the practice at 9am and ended it at 12pm, so that I could go at 1.30pm and offer Namaaz as Jumma Namaz takes place between 1.30-2pm. I could have altered the practice timings. We would offer Namaz for five minutes inside the dressing room, and then the Maulvis would leave after that. Nothing happened beyond this, and this happened before we went into the bio-bubble,” the 42-year-old explained.
Denying the allegation that he was promoting Muslim players in the team, Jaffer said: “I even dropped Samad Fallah (former Maharashtra pacer) for the last game in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy. Had I been communal, both Fallah and Mohammad Nazim would have played all the games. It’s a very petty thing to say or even think. I wanted to give opportunities to newer players.”
Further clarifying his stance, Jaffer said that he had in fact recommended opener Jay Bistal to be the Uttarakhand captain this season, but it was the selectors who felt that experienced left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla would be a better choice to lead the side. “There are a lot of lies being spread around on social media. I don’t know what all to answer. I’m just answering the allegations put on me. It’s very sad that I’ve to sit here and explain this. I wanted to make Bista as the captain because he is a youngster. However, Rizwan Shamshad (Uttarakhand chief selector) and other selectors suggested that Abdulla should be made the captain, since he’s a senior player, and has played in the IPL too. I agreed with that suggestion. I had signed Bista as a ‘professional,’ and had asked him to lead the team. I wasn’t behaving like (Adolf) Hitler that everything should happen as per my wishes,” he stressed.
Jaffer said that he had recommended Dikshanshu Negi’s name as captain to replace Abdulla for the Vijay Hazare Trophy. “However, they picked another player as a captain, and made 11 changes to the team which played in Mushtaq Ali, all without informing me. I was neither a part of the meeting nor was the team discussed with me,” he lamented.
On Tuesday, Jaffer had resigned as Uttarakhand’s head coach alleging “interference in team selection” from CAU secretary Mahim Verma, days before they were to compete in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, beginning on February 20. Meanwhile, CAU secretary Mahim Verma told TOI that Uttarakhand had already appointed a new coach. “The way he has resigned from here is not proper. We have never said that he’s a communal person. We’ve appointed Manish Kumar Jha (former Sikkim coach) as the coach of the team,” Verma said.