Former India captain Anil Kumble has led the support from the Indian players' fraternity to former team-mate Wasim Jaffer after senior officials at Cricket Association of Uttarakhand (CAU) reportedly alleged Jaffer was creating a religious and communal divide in the dressing room. Along with Kumble, others who backed Jaffer included former Indian and Baroda allrounder Irfan Pathan, India and Bengal batsman Manoj Tiwary and former India and Karnataka fast bowler Dodda Ganesh.
"With you Wasim," Kumble said in a tweet posted on Thursday. "Did the right thing. Unfortunately, it's the players who'll miss your mentorship." Incidentally, both Kumble and Jaffer are part of the Kings XI Punjab coaching staff; the former is the director of cricket operations and the latter is the batting coach.
The allegations, which were published by Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagran on Wednesday, quoted the CAU secretary Mahim Verma stating that Jaffer was trying to "break the team through religious activities". Navneet Mishra, the Uttarakhand team manager, also alleged that Jaffer had also changed the team slogan from 'Jai Hanuman' to 'Go Uttarakhand'.
Meanwhile, the CAU has asked Mishra to submit a report on the matter. "After looking at the seriousness of the incident related to the Cricket Association of Uttarakhand and Wasim Jaffer, the association has asked men's senior team's manager Navneet Mishra to submit a report on the matter," Verma said in CAU release. "The further course of action will be decided after Mishra submits his report.
"We are already questioning the manager about the biosecure bubble breach and will take action against any person/support staff responsible for the same as players' safety is paramount for us."
On Wednesday, Jaffer denied all the allegations, calling them "baseless" and "petty". Pathan agreed, saying in a tweet today, that it was "unfortunate" Jaffer had to "explain this".
Incidentally, the allegations emerged a day after Jaffer sent in his resignation as Uttarakhand head coach on February 8 citing "interference in selections". In an e-mail to senior CAU office bearers and officials, Jaffer singled out Verma for interfering in the team selections and it was the CAU's secretary's "laidback and unprofessional approach" which had caused him to "move away".
Last June, the CAU had appointed Jaffer as the head coach for the 2020-21 season. With the pandemic delaying the start of the Indian domestic season, the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy was Jaffer's first assignment as he arrived in Dehradun for the preparatory camp on December 22. Immediately, Jaffer said, he noticed Verma having a say in cricketing issues including selection for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
"Things had started to get sour between me and Mr. Mahim Verma when I was pressurised in the last team selections for Syed Mushtaq Ali, where Mr. Verma had been pushing the names of players for selection in the team, who were not at all deserving," Jaffer wrote in the February 8 e-mail. "I had made it very clear then also that for the betterment of cricket in the state going forward, I am not going to entertain such interference in the team selection."
Apparently, Jaffer's riposte did not deter Verma. According to Jaffer, he spoke to Verma on January 30, regarding the selection of the squad for the forthcoming Vijay Hazare Trophy tournament. Jaffer wanted to finalise the squad along with the Uttarakhand selection panel head Rizwan Shamshad, the former Uttar Pradesh fast bowler. Jaffer told Verma he "wanted our team to go and play at least 4-5 practice matches with other association so I can observe the performances of the players and temperament in conditions away from Dehradun".
On February 3, Verma told Jaffer in an e-mail that Shamshad's panel had been asked to pick the squad by February 1. "I had e-mailed a team of 22 players to the secretary, selection committee and CEO on 7th Feb night as my recommendation and feedback but I did not receive even a reply or a call and the team was announced on 8th Feb which I being the Head Coach received on 8th Feb late evening. I had been continuously in touch with the CEO since my appointment was done and had been smoothly coordinating with Mr. [Aman] Singh in regards to all cricketing requirements but even on that front I was asked by Mr. Verma to directly coordinate with him as he is the secretary of the association and going forward this has also resulted in many delays and no plan of action was discussed ever."
According to Jaffer, Shamshad had "not even once" contacted him before finalising the Uttarakhand squad for the Vijay Hazare Trophy. "Being the Head Coach and being with the team continuously for the last 3-4 months I expect at least some feedbacks to be taken."
Jaffer, 42, retired from cricket having played for more than two decades during which he played 31 Tests for India, won eight Ranji Trophy titles with Bombay and two more with Vidarbha, for whom he played as a professional. Jaffer said he had turned down offers from overseas including the batting coach role at Bangladesh to focus on Uttarakhand. But the episode had left him "disheartened".
"I feel really sad for the players as I genuinely think that they have lot of potential and can learn so much from me but are denied with this opportunity because of so much interference & bias-ness of selectors and Secretary in the selection matters for non-deserving players. If the Honorary Secretary of CAU would want to inculcate such kind of work environment while not letting me take certain decisions pertaining to the team's welfare and performance. Then I don't think there's any valid reason for me to continue as Head Coach of Men's Senior team of CAU.
"I had an offer of becoming batting coach of Bangladesh test team, Head Coach Sri Lanka premier league, Head Coach Dubai T10 and Head Coach offers from other reputed state associations but I refused them all because of my commitment to CAU that I had made. I had put in a lot of efforts into shaping up the Men's team keeping in mind the future aspects of the state and its players but such a laid back & unprofessional approach from Mr. Verma has forced me to move away from CAU. It is really very disheartening to see that so much talent in the state is being wasted just because of such approach."
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo