Former Indian batsman Wasim Jaffer is in the middle of an unneeded controversy that began with allegations levelled against him of being communally biased. However, Jaffer has denied rumours that he was communal.
On Wednesday, Jaffer resigned as the head coach of Uttarakhand state cricket team after the Secretary of Cricket Association of Uttarakhand (CAU) Mahim Verma and Team Manager Navneet Mishra made serious allegations against him. Some of the allegations ranged from showing a religious bias for selecting Muslim players and to inviting a Maulavi (a Muslim religious teacher) for conducting prayers inside the bio-bubble.
Jaffer refuted these claims at a press conference held on Wednesday, saying, “These are serious allegations and the communal angle that has been levelled against me is disheartening.” He added that he was never communal. “All team members who played in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy did so because I believed in them. Had I been communal, both Samad Fallah and Mohammad Nazim would have played all games. I dropped Samad for the last game since I wanted to give opportunities to new players.”
Moreover, he said that he had recommended making Jay Bista as the captain of the side, but the selectors felt that Iqbal Abdullah was a better candidate. “They reasoned that Iqbal was a senior player and has played in the IPL. I agreed with their suggestion,” Jaffer said. He added that only three out of the 22 players selected in the squad followed Islam.
Jaffer, who has played 31 Tests and 2 ODIs for India, dismissed allegations about him refusing players to use “Ram-bhakt Hanuman ki Jai” slogans in the team huddle. “First of all, these slogans were not there. The only chant these players said in the huddle is ‘Rani Mata Sacche Darbar Ki Jay’, which is a Sikh chant. I have not heard them say Jai Shree Ram or Jai Hanuman chants and I suggested that we could say ‘Go Uttarakhand’,” Jaffer added.
He also pointed out that Iqbal Abdullah had called the Maulavi and not him, adding that Navneet took the required permission to bring the Maulavi.
The entire controversy began soon after Jaffer stepped down as head coach. One of the main reasons behind Jaffer’s resignation was the interference in team selection by CAU Secretary Mahim Verma. Jaffer said the selectors did not take his views while selecting the team for upcoming Vijay Hazare Trophy.
“Along with four selectors and the CEO, I was present during the team selection for the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. The Secretary [Verma] was absent. However, neither was I part of the meeting nor any discussion was held with me for the Vijay Hazare Trophy (Squad selection),” Jaffer said, adding that Verma had brought him in to improve cricket in Uttarakhand and he needed freedom to do it. “If things have to run the way it is running then there is no point in me joining the side,” he said.
Jaffer concluded the press conference saying, “If I was communal, then I wouldn’t have resigned, instead, they would have sacked me.”
Ever since the allegations came out, many right-wing supporters have given hurtful labels to Jaffer. However, a majority have come out in support for the former Indian opener. Many have said that religious communalism must not be brought into cricket.
Even former Indian player and coach Anil Kumble came out in support of Jaffer saying players will miss Jaffer's mentorship. Kumble and Jaffer are coaches at Kings XI Punjab in the IPL.
Some are even questioning the silence of Jaffer’s former Indian teammates, particularly Sachin Tendulkar after his #IndiaTogether tweet controversy.
According to reports, a few players from Vidarbha team have come out in support of Jaffer saying that he was like an elder brother and was never biased. They said he always gave priority to deserving players on their performances. Jaffer was the former coach of Vidarbha cricket team.