Thursday, March 02, 2006

A jaffa from Jaffer

Although the cricketing term 'jaffa' is supposed to refer to an unplayable delivery, I couldn't but help using it to describe the innings Wasim Jaffer played yesterday. Here was a guy returning to the team after almost 4 years in the wilderness - times which were probably much darker than one could imagine. The crown of being an Indian opener has lain uneasy on the heads of those who have been fortunate/unfortunate to wear it. Where are Aakash Chopra and Sanjay Bangar today? But from whatever little I have read about his innings, he seems to be in sublime touch.

I have seen Jaffer just once, and that was during the Ranji pre-quarterfinal against TN at the Guru Nanak ground in Chennai. Saarang 2002 was on, and to liven up the relatively boring afternoon I decided to cycle down to Guru Nanak from IIT. For better or for worse, I happened to be the only bloke there cheering for a rather hapless Mumbai team (not that the TN team was much better)!

The Guru Nanak ground is bang in the middle of the college of the same name. The pavilion was just about shady enough to keep the players cool (I dont know if the place has changed a lot in the past four years), and people could choose their vantage points from where they could watch the game. A makeshift shamiana sheltered a few TNCA officials who had taken the trouble to attend the game. From another tent adjoining the pavilion, the characteristic fragrance of mutton biriyani wafted over the ground - lulling a few Mumbai batsmen into a soporific end to their innings and a slow waltz back to the pavilion.

Both teams had their share of former Indian players. Bombay had Sameer Dighe, Nilesh Kulkarni, Sairaj Bahutule, Vinod Kambli and Paras Mhambrey; while the TN team had the famous warhorse Robin Singh, Thiru Kumaran, Sadagopan Ramesh, Aashish Kapoor and S. Sriram.

Post-lunch, while a bloke called Balaji gave the Bombay batsmen a ton of trouble under the searing Chennai sun, a single figure emerged from the pavilion and went towards the nets. Padded up, he began knocking the ball around. He started out slow, but then began to play his shots. It was sheer ecstasy to watch him, and I pretty much lost interest in the happenings out in the middle. For a full two hours, he did nothing but play some of the most brilliant shots in the book. He reminded me of one Mohd. Azharuddin and another wristy bloke by the name of VVS Laxman. But this guy was Wasim Jaffer. Agreed, he did not do too well in that game, but it seems like he obviously was committed enough to his game to go out there in the hot sun and practise his game. I do hope that during the dark years away from the test arena, Jaffer did not lose his appetite for the game.

Balaji on the other hand went on to play a few games for India, where he did fairly well but today is one of the proverbial sacrificial lambs at the altar of the selection committee. The emergence of Sreesanth and RP Singh (not to forget VRV Singh) has also played a major role in Balaji's comeback grinding to a halt. Will he make a comeback? I personally have my misgivings about it, especially with the sudden surge in the 'pace attack' the team fields nowadays.

[While writing this, the Indians decided it was time to make things a little more exciting. The score reads 149-4, Jaffer out without scoring the much awaited century Laxman expected him to score!]


anantha said...

Ya, heard it this morning from Dean Jones and was totally wondering what it meant. I have heard it before, but never have I tried to find out what it meant, till now! Another of those Aussie terms, I guess.
Btw, L "Machi" Balaji seems to be recovering from an injury! He missed all the Ranji games, I think, this past season! And oh, btw, Ramesh plays for Kerala these days.

Soultan of Swing said...

Long time no speak/see...
Heard this word jaffa a few times on Aussie commentaries, and I think it has something to do with a kind of orange (jaffa orange) which supposedly grows in Mediterranean climates.
Good to hear Balaji's getting back to cricket - feel he has been dealt an unfair hand.
Ramesh has just withered away sadly. But what shocks me most is the disappearance of Ambati Rayudu! And yes, Aakash Chopra's AWOL too!

anantha said...

Jaffa ORanges... hmmm...

Abt Rayudu, the news is that Hyderabad cricket has detoriated so badly under Shivlal Yadav (guy since has moved to run NCA) and his non-cricketer of a son who captains the Hyderabad team now that players are migrating in droves to play for Andhra. Rayudu is one of these.

Soultan of Swing said...

The only headlines Rayudu made last season was probably the scuffle he got into pitchside against Hyd. Have seen writers on PremPanix's blog wonder about Rayudu.
Another bloke who never got a fair deal was Amol Muzumdar. Sigh..(and it's not my Mumbai loyalties speaking).
Lets hope the new blokes - Chawla and Pujara dont become Rayudus.

anantha said...

And guess who he was scuffling with? The Hyderabad captain and Shivlal Yadav's son - Arjun Yadav!