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Armaan Jaffer brings his appetite for big runs to senior level

He scored heaps of runs in age-group cricket, but had only 55 runs to show for his five Ranji Trophy matches before this season

Armaan Jaffer has scored two centuries in three Ranji Trophy games this season  •  Special Arrangement

Armaan Jaffer has scored two centuries in three Ranji Trophy games this season  •  Special Arrangement

Armaan Jaffer has always had an appetite for runs and long innings. At the school level, at the Under-19 level, at the Under-25 level. And now, it was visible at the senior level too, when he scored his second century of the Ranji Trophy season, on day four of the semi-final and blunted Uttar Pradesh with centurion Yashasvi Jaiswal to take Mumbai close to their first final in five years. Mumbai now lead by 662 runs.
After a long gap, this hunger for runs reflected in tangible terms only recently. Having started his age-group cricket alongside Sarfaraz Khan and Prithvi Shaw, he was tipped to be the next big thing with them from Mumbai.
But it was a stop-start career for Jaffer after his first-class debut in the 2016-17 season. He missed the following season due to a knee surgery but made his way back into the Mumbai squad in the 2018-19 edition after an unbeaten 300 off 367 against Saurashtra in the Under-23 CK Nayudu Trophy.
However, his career never really took off at the senior level as he would have wanted it to.
Before this Ranji season, Jaffer had played five first-class matches and had scored a mere 55 runs.
Self-doubt started to creep in and "people also started doubting" him. It was because of the reputation he had earned and the expectations he had set after being prolific in age-group cricket. The 'Jaffer' tag also had its own share of pressure.
Jaffer first hogged the limelight with a record 498 runs in the Under-14 Giles Shield tournament - the highest individual score in Indian school cricket in 2010. He was then picked for the 2016 Under-19 World Cup on the back of three consecutive double-centuries in the Under-19 Cooch Behar Trophy. In the same year, he was added to the Kings XI Punjab squad for INR 10 lakh.
But this drive to play long innings was rekindled by Abhishek Nayar, former India and Mumbai batter, post his 2019 ACL surgery.
"I didn't want to take any innings for granted," he said of his changed mindset.
During his rehabilitation in Mumbai, Jaffer trained with Nayar for six months and those interactions helped him get into a better mental state and "not focus on personal goals." That was a bit of a "different preparation," he would say.
"Talking to him, him sharing his experiences…that motivated me a lot.
"On my chat with Nayar, I came to know that it was his dream to hit a six off the first ball on debut like Vinod Kambli did, but that could not happen because he was under so much pressure. Then he could not string good performances, he got out for consecutive zeroes, and he was left out of the team. But he did not lose his hunger of coming back into the team and playing Ranji Trophy for Bombay for many years. Eventually, he made a comeback and went on to play for India as well. That was quite motivating for me.
"For me, there was a time when I played five [Ranji] matches, and post that, I did not do anything.
"I had scored so many runs in age-group tournaments that there was so much expectation from everyone, and that could not be fulfilled. So there was a lot of self-doubt, but when I spoke to him [Nayar], my dad, then my mindset changed a bit. This season I think my mindset has been better. There has definitely been hard work, but I think my mindset has been better. And that is paying off through my performances."
This clarity was visible in all the three Ranji games he has played so far. In his first match this season, against Odisha in the group stage, coming in at No. 3 and witnessing Mumbai slip from 73 for 0 to 76 for 3, Jaffer cracked a 223-ball 125 and stitched 277 runs with Sarfaraz to help Mumbai take a big lead. The next opportunity came a few months after the IPL, in the quarter-final against Uttarakhand and he scored 60 and an unbeaten 17.
On Friday, in the semi-final, Jaffer scored a breezy 127 in the second innings on a flat pitch at the Just Cricket Academy and put on 286 runs with Jaiswal for the second wicket to further close in on the final spot. Mumbai ended the day at 449 for 4 with another massive lead. Jaiswal made his career-best first-class score of 181, his third consecutive century in the format.
"The match was on our side, especially after they got out in the first innings," Jaffer said. "But personally, I did not want to take any innings for granted. Regardless of the match situation, I did not want to take any innings for granted and did not want to waste any innings. My focus was to score runs. That would have helped the team and me.
"In general, I haven't made too many changes to my preparation. What I was doing at the time, I am continuing with the same now. Maybe, it was not destined to happen at the time, but now it is happening. The hard work that I have put in these years is paying off now. My preparation has been normal, I train with my father."
Mumbai might be closing in on a final spot, but Jaffer still has some unfinished business.
"Before the season, the message from our coach [Amol Muzumdar] was that Bombay has won the trophy 41 times, so we have to win the Ranji Trophy anyhow. That was the goal right from the beginning," he added.
The senior Jaffer - Armaan's uncle - has won 10 Ranji titles in his career. The junior may not be far from adding one to his name.

Srinidhi Ramanujam is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo