Wasim Jaffer will turn 40 in less than two months. He had scaled new heights while playing for his home side Mumbai in the domestic circuit by scoring nearly 10,000 runs and leading them to their 38th and 39th Ranji Trophy titles. Before the 2015-16 season, he left Mumbai for Vidarbha and on the first day of 2018, he won his ninth Ranji title with a team nobody thought had a chance. He speaks about what keeps him going, if statistics matter to him or not, what changed for Vidarbha this season and more.
It's coach Chandrakant Pandit's first season with Vidarbha and the team has won straightaway. What did he bring into the dressing room?
Vidarbha had the talent but I think he brought a lot of discipline, a lot of strictness, he brought the players out of their comfort zone - which was required I feel. These players have the talent but sometimes you need to push them; they don't know their limits. So with me around, Subroto [Banerjee, the bowling coach] around and Chandu around, you can see what they can do. Even at the start of the season, when I looked around the squad, I could see that if everything fell into place... We had a good fast-bowling attack, we had a spin attack, I mean a player like Karn Sharma is sitting out of the team, so you can imagine the quality. So at the start of the season I thought we could do something special and here we are, winning the Ranji Trophy.
Last season, Vidarbha won only two matches and you didn't play...
I missed last season because of injury, I was obviously very sad about it because I missed almost all the season. So I was very keen to come back and play. Just play as much as I can, as long as I can. I was very keen and with Chandu around, I know how he operates, so it makes it easier.
You made your first-class debut in 1996-97 and here you are in 2018. What keeps you going?
I think just about playing, to be honest. I don't know anything other than playing cricket. I know I can do a bit of coaching and a bit of commentating, but it won't give me as much joy. There's always time to do a lot of these things. As long as I can play and I'm enjoying and helping these players with anything that I can, it gives me a lot of satisfaction. This is the joy that keeps me going and there's not many years left in me, but currently I'm enjoying playing and I want to continue as long as I can - till my fitness allows me.
You have been the highest run-scorer in Ranji cricket for some time now. Are statistics important to you?
They are to some extent but you don't need to play for the statistics obviously, you need to enjoy the game. You don't need to put too much pressure [on yourself] through statistics. As long as you enjoy the sport, as long as you enjoy what you are doing and you are contributing to the team, you don't need to be a burden on the side. I think that holds a lot more importance than statistics.
How different is it to win the title for a side like Vidarbha, compared to for a team that is expected to win from the outset?
The answer lies in the question itself because, when you play for Mumbai, you are expected to win. With the side that Mumbai always has got, people are not surprised. But when a team wins like this, people are surprised, players get noticed. I think it's the kick-start they probably need in their careers - that they can beat the best of the players, best of the teams, that's going to take them forward. This is a stepping stone for them, it's a start and they need to carry forward this position they have brought themselves into. They've got the quality, they have the belief, now it's about keeping their consistency.
How is it different for you, personally?
It is different. When we played against Karnataka, I don't think many people gave us a chance. Even on the second day, when they were 80 runs ahead, myself and Chandu told the team that you need to believe that things can change, there are so many overs to play and the pitch is doing all sorts of things, we just need to keep the belief. We said that even if we lose, people won't be surprised if we lose, but we need to lose fighting the battle, we shouldn't give up. So that's what we said and things changed and here we are. Even here [in the final] on the first day, they were 260-270 for 6 and then in the next session things changed completely. [Rajneesh] Gurbani took a hat-trick and that probably changed the scenario. So that belief is probably what they needed and it's an amazing feeling. As I said, nobody probably believed that I'd play another Ranji final but here I am with my ninth Ranji Trophy title.