Mumbai v Rest of India, Irani Cup, Mumbai, 2nd day February 7, 2013

Tough Jaffer revives comeback hopes

Age may not be on his side, but Jaffer's prolific run should merit more than an outside chance of being considered for selection

In 2007-08, an opener batted with a badly injured hand in the Ranji Trophy final at the Wankhede Stadium, scored an unbeaten second-innings century to hand Delhi the title and eventually won his place back in the Indian Test side. The man he replaced had been struggling on the tour of Australia, but five years on the situation appears to have reversed for Gautam Gambhir and Wasim Jaffer, who has perhaps shown a greater hunger to play and perform, amid tragic circumstances.

This year Jaffer batted at the same venue in the final of the same tournament, and scored a century that helped Mumbai to their 40th Ranji title. He lost his father - who was battling for life in hospital for almost half the season - three days after being named Man of the Match in the final against Saurashtra and completing a competition in which he averaged 76. As difficult as events have been off the field, Jaffer has shown a determination and commitment to score runs for Mumbai, practiced with the team, and piled it on in what has been a prolific season.

Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag - who has been struggling himself - are likely starters for the Australia Tests but Jaffer's run merits more than an outside chance. Sure, India would prefer a younger alternative to someone about to turn 35, but the selectors going back to M Vijay, who had a highest of 42 in eight innings this Ranji season and lost his place in the Test team in 2011, to play for Rest of India shows a scarcity of options. Gambhir has a superior record in Tests, his struggles have come against better bowling attacks than those on offer on the domestic circuit, and has had a relatively better run in ODIs including a match-winning innings in the World Cup final, but his place in the Test side, just as his opening partner's, hasn't been above scrutiny.

In the last three years, Gambhir has averaged 31 in Tests and is still searching for a three-figure score in that time. Sehwag has lost his place in the ODI side, and failed to fire in six straight innings against England. In this season alone, on the only stage he's played, Jaffer has hit three centuries, five half-centuries, and reclaimed his Ranji record for most runs. He returned to play the Irani Cup despite his personal loss, and made 80. His innings on the second day was cut short when he belatedly withdrew his bat after nicking Sreesanth, but his knock was assured, free-flowing, littered with boundaries through the off side, and the landmark of 50 runs seemed a routine achievement given how his season has panned out.

The national selection panel has been watching the proceedings at the Wankhede Stadium. One member, Vikram Rathour, is coaching Rest of India. There has been an increasing demand on the one hand to groom more youngsters as part of a long-term plan that includes India's overseas assignments, starting with the tour of South Africa at the end of this year. On the other, there's the immediate concern of taking on Australia at home after having returned from two disastrous tours and losing to England in India for the first time in 28 years. These are desperate times, and if the selectors who meet to pick the squad on February 10 view them as such, considering Jaffer as an opening option should not be ruled out.

Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 10, 2013, 9:19 GMT

    what was the qualification for M Vijay as compared to Jaffer ?? selecters are spoiling Indian Team if they are playing politics like all area players are required in team india then Mukund is far better than Vijay.

  • Dummy4 on February 10, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    If age is the real reason, then what is sachin tendulkar doing in the team. Is it that BCCi have different criteria of age for openers .

  • Dummy4 on February 10, 2013, 8:02 GMT

    Am not too sure why you guys are pitching so much for a Gambhir replacement. If we see the last 3 years, we have had many players struggling. Rahul Dravid, VVS have been consumed up as a result and now we have silent murmurs for getting rid of SRT. We want to forget the fighting innings of Gambhhir during the last 3 years and recollect the fact that he is not scoring centuries. We need to get Gambhir and Murali Vijay to develop into a formidable opening pair that can wade us through the next 7-8 years.I remember the innings in Sydey, Mumbai and Kolkata where he performed when people around him failed. You remember all failures and attribute them to him. If he was so singly responsible for the failures imagine what he can do if he comes out of it. All he needs to do is stop chasing the delivery outside off stump. That is all he needs to do to bounce back.

  • Srinivas on February 10, 2013, 3:52 GMT

    RIP elder Jaffer Saheb. Sadly, Wasim is 34 years old. Hope he gets a chance and succeeds for as long as he plays for India. Very humble man.

  • vathabi on February 10, 2013, 3:21 GMT

    Wasim Jaffer and Rahane, and any other new player will have the benefit of playing against a quality fast bowlers of Australia and this will stand long when India face South African pacers in their tent.

  • Kameswara Venkatesh on February 9, 2013, 20:48 GMT

    Age not a factor for Wasim Jaffer. No harm in giving him a chance even if he might be around only for a couple of years. There is no Test World Cup for which to groom the youngsters for.

  • Syed on February 8, 2013, 20:41 GMT

    I guess Rohit sharma could be given a go for the first time in the test matches instead of ODI's. Maybe test match debut might bring out his flair and form.

  • Munawar on February 8, 2013, 18:49 GMT

    Students of cricket who have watched Jaffer,Vijay, Mukund, Rahane,Dhawan and Rahane lately would easily know the answer.Jaffer is miles ahead of those named here in terms of sheer class, range of shots, skill, temperament, style, capacity to build an inning, etc.Rahane would be a poor second best. However,Rahane should be in the team just in case Sehwag fails.Jaffer must replace Gambhi.He should have gone in 2011 itself.Jaffer has been waiting patiently for last two years for his test comeback performing superbly again and again in domestic cricket since 2008 but ignored again and again.Hope Sandeep Patil and his team will give Jaffer his due and provide required solidity at the top.Jaffer is good for another 2-3 years.By that time selectors must ready replacements.Names of Akshath Reddy,Jiwanjot Singh and Unmukt Chand readily come to mind.Food for about Kaif at No.6. Kaif is any day more complete batsman than Raina and Yuvraj and more suited for Tests and he is only 32.

  • Munawar on February 8, 2013, 18:14 GMT

    Wasim Jaffer even at 35 is the best Test opener on current form in the country today. Likes of Vijay, Mukund and Rahane do not come close to him in terms of sheer class, temperament, range of shots, and skill. After Australia series the next four Test series are abroad. Conditions abroad include lively fast pitches where ball swings and jumps like anything. Lesser mortals like Gambhir, Vijay, Mukund, Yuvraj, Raina with proven susceptibilities against fast short pitched and swinging stuff are more likely to fail than succeed. Hence the team needs solidity and skill. Jaffer has a couple of double hundreds on South African and West Indian tracks. He should have ideally replaced Gambhir more than a year ago but for his strong backing in Delhi cricket.Sehwag should be retained for the Austarlian series but with an assurance that he will be responsible enough with no rash strokes.His sheer talent and track record should put him through the selection on Feb10th. Sehwag deserves another chance

  • sahil on February 8, 2013, 18:11 GMT

    Look at all the sehwag greatest innings...mcg-195, multan-309, sl-220*...every time he had a partner on the other end who maintained composure & solidity which is certainly missing in GG. i Guess jaffer batting along sehwag would also help me find his touch