Yesterday was the closest the Mumbai opener came as far as making a comeback to Team India is concerned, since being dropped after the Test against South Africa (Kanpur, April 2008). Riding high on a fabulous Ranji Trophy season, the stylish batsman was very much in the reckoning given the prolonged slump in form of India openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. The axe finally fell on Gambhir for the first two Tests against Australia, but Sandeep Patil & Co picked Shikhar Dhawan instead.
“I have not lost hope. My job is to score runs. The rest is up to the selectors,” Jaffer, who seemed visibly upset with the selection news, told MiD DAY. When asked if he had hopes of making the cut for the remaining two Tests, Jaffer said: “I am always hopeful of opportunities.”
Jaffer has been in fine form this season. In seven Ranji Trophy games, he has aggregated 835 runs at an average of nearly 76. His centuries in the Ranji quarter-finals and final (150 & 132 respectively) came under trying situations given his father was battling for life in hospital then. Jaffer also reclaimed the honour of becoming Ranji’s highest run-getter and scorer of most centuries (32) in the season. In the Irani Cup tie that concluded yesterday, he scored a brilliant 80 and unbeaten 101 against Rest of India. Yesterday, he also became the Irani Cup’s top run-scorer (1008), surpassing Gundappa Vishwanath’s 1001.
Jaffer admitted he expected a call-up for the Australia series. “I am scoring runs… the motivation is still there. I’m fit enough and confident of doing well, if given another opportunity. I have been scoring well since I was dropped in 2008,” he said.
Former chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar, under whose reign Jaffer was dropped in 2008, was shocked at his omission. “Performance and fitness should be the only criteria for selection. Jaffer has been scoring heavily in the domestic circuit and deserved a call-up. He has scored centuries in crucial matches too. What more should he do,” asked Vengsarkar.