Mixing cricket and faith

The deafening silence of our cricketing legends over outlandish allegations against Wasim Jaffer, one of the most respected and admired players in domestic cricket, is unfortunate and disheartening. Jaffer recently stepped down as coach of the Uttarakhand state team, alleging that the Cricket Association of Uttarakhand (CAU) secretary and selectors had been ‘pushing non-deserving players’ to be selected in the team. As if on cue, and in a sign of the times we live in, CAU responded by dragging Jaffer’s religion into the controversy. CAU’s secretary Mahim Verma made several allegations against Jaffer, the most serious of which was that Jaffer was promoting ‘religion-based selection’ in the team.

This sort of a charge against anyone, let alone an India cricketer who played 31 Test matches for the country, must not be made lightly and without hard evidence. Predictably, Verma’s allegation acted as a dog-whistle to a certain section of social media users, who attacked Jaffer’s alleged religious bias. In his response, Jaffer denied the allegations and said if he had been communal-minded, he would have been sacked. ‘This is a serious allegation. And if there was indeed a communal bias, I wouldn’t have resigned, they would have sacked me,’ Jaffer said.

Jaffer, 42, played in the Ranji Trophy until the 2019-20 season and is the all-time leading run-scorer in the tournament. He helped his last team, Vidarbha, to two consecutive Ranji titles. His record in public life, lasting over 25 years as a cricketer and an individual, is unimpeachable. The saddest part is that though he played for Mumbai for 18 consecutive First-Class seasons, not one among his ‘great’ teammates or former players from the city spoke for him. Anil Kumble, Manoj Tiwary and Irfan Pathan are the only cricketers who publicly expressed their support to him. His former India captains Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid have kept their silence, as has the Indian Cricketers’ Association. Meanwhile, CAU officials have started diluting their allegations against Jaffer. The least that Ganguly, president of the Indian cricket board, must do is to investigate the matter so that the truth is out.

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