Wasim Jaffer tells G Krishnan that Sachin Tendulkar’s presence keeps everyone in the dressing room on his toes.
You will appear in your eighth Ranji final. How do you look back at the other seven, for you finished on the winning side in all of them.
You don’t get to play too many Ranji finals in your career. I was fortunate enough to represent my state. And when you play for Mumbai, you also get a lot of chances. Ranji final is one of the biggest games in domestic circuit. Not many first-class cricketers have played one.
Which final stands out?
The one in Mysore (2009-10 vs Karnataka) was perhaps the best first-class game I’ve featured in. Playing away from home, with the crowd and everything else going against us, we still came up trumps.
Are you pleased with the way this season has gone for you?
Scoring runs is the most important thing, whether you are captain or not. I did not have a very good season last year. Giving up captaincy has made it a bit easier. It was taking a toll on me and I did not want to hold on to the job for long. This season has gone really well. Hopefully, it’ll be the same in the final, both for the team and me.
Mumbai managed only one outright win this season...
We lost two games on the first innings to Punjab and Hyderabad, which were unusual. Not winning outright regularly made it difficult for us. The point system was such that you get three points for the first innings lead but six for an outright win, the gap is that much. This season has not been a smooth ride.
Where do Mumbai need to improve?
We need to continue with the way we are playing and bring forth our natural game. We had a very good match against Baroda (quarterfinal). We batted very well against Services (semifinal) and took seven wickets in the first session on the sixth day.
Does the Mumbai dressing room mindset change when Sachin Tendulkar is around?
It is a big plus point when someone like Zaheer (Khan) or Sachin is available. Most of the times, they are unavailable. When Sachin is available, it is all the more special. The juniors know that this kind of an opportunity doesn’t arise often. When Sachin is around, everybody is on their toes. They know they have to be at their best.
Does he talk about what he is going through?
Going into the Australian series, he is very focussed on returning to form and scoring the way he does. I’ve batted with him this season; he is in good touch. I know he has not scored runs against England. Everyone goes through a lean phase. He has done well for 23 seasons. He is bound to fail sometimes. The little I know of him, he will bounce back hard. I am sure he is going to score a lot of runs.
At 34, do you still fancy playing for India again?
I’ve not given up hope. My job is to score plenty of runs. If the opportunities arise and the selectors are watching, I’ll be available.
What’s Mumbai cricket’s future?
It looks good. The U-25 team has won the CK Nayudu Trophy, the U-16 and U-19 teams are in the Vijay Merchant and Cooch Behar finals. The youngsters in the Ranji team are improving. As long as the U-25 and U-19 boys are doing well, the future bodes well.