Don’t be surprised if Wasim Jaffer is regarded as the ‘Big boss’ of Mumbai’s dressing room. With every knock, the elegant right-hander has stamped his authority in domestic cricket.
On Saturday, against Odisha Jaffer, who last played a Test match in 2008, once again was the star performer for the 40-time Ranji champions as the India opener slammed an unbeaten 125 to bring up his 51st first-class ton at the Wankhede Stadium. Mumbai ended the opening day of their last Ranji Trophy league match on home turf at 242-2.
Jaffer, who is leading the side after two seasons, had no hesitation in electing to bat after winning the toss. But once again, the openers failed to put up a good score. Aditya Tare (16) was beautifully squared up by medium-pacer Basant Mohanty, who troubled the Mumbai openers frequently. The extra bounce also surprised Tare, who edged it to wicketkeeper Sujit Lenka, making a debut on his birthday.
Next was Sushant Marathe (27), who failed to connect Mohanty’s inswinger that disrupted his furniture. Once again, hopes were pinned on Jaffer. He did not disappoint. The veteran batsman took his own sweet time to settle down in the middle amidst a charged-up Odisha side. That excitement soon faded out.
When on song, it is difficult to stop Jaffer.
The elegant drives and the flicks off his pads were as usual, a treat to watch. Just before the tea break, Jaffer upped the tempo of Mumbai innings, smashing two sixes off Dhiraj Singh’s over. A few overs later, he chose Singh to bring up his third century of the season with a sweep shot. A ball later, Jaffer lofted Singh for a six over midwicket.
A special visitor
There was a special person in the stands watching Jaffer’s batting closely - his nephew Armaan, who rushed to Churchgate immediately after his practice session at Bandra Kurla Complex in the afternoon. “I heard Wasim uncle was batting. It is always a treat to watch him bat. There is so much to learn from him. I learnt how to build your innings when bowlers are dominating.
He is my idol and I like to play like him,” said Armaan, who recently got picked in the Mumbai team against Kerala for the U-19 Cooch Behar
Trophy. Seeing Jaffer’s fluency, southpaw Hiken Shah, who is batting on 67, also started to open up his strokes.
“It is always a joy to bat with Wasimbhai. He takes a lot of pressure off the other batsmen. He just told me to stay at the wicket because they were bowling a consistent line and length,” said Shah. Meanwhile, 42-year-old Pravin Tambe became the oldest Indian player to debut in first-class cricket.
Brief scores: Mumbai 242-2 (W Jaffer 125*, Hiken Shah 67*, B Mohanty 2-33) vs Odisha