Pick Wasim Jaffer even if he is 35: Gaekwad

Anshuman Gaekwad knows a thing or two about opening stands. Not only was he an opening batsman, he also watched, as coach, the success of a good opening pair contributing to India claiming the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 1998.

Wasim Jaffer and Gaekwad
Mumbai’s Wasim Jaffer during his 80 against Rest of India at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday (inset) Gaekwad. PIC/Suresh KK

Sandeep Patil’s selection committee will pick the India squad for the series against Australia in Mumbai today. Baroda-based Gaekwad told Sunday MiD DAY on Saturday that the selectors should not be coy to bring back Wasim Jaffer, who has scored heavily and impressively for Mumbai this season. Jaffer helped himself to 80 in the ongoing Irani Cup match against Rest of India. “I am a bit wary of Gautam Gambhir. He looks tentative and has not come into his own. I would consider Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay and Wasim Jaffer.

Now, I know there is all this talk about looking ahead and here’s where Jaffer faces a disadvantage. It’s sad. Looking ahead to younger talent is fine, but the question must be asked as to how many options do we have? “It’s not that we have a young opening batsman who is scoring heavily and waiting to be picked. In this scenario, I would pick someone like Jaffer who has done all the right things this season and that is… scoring runs,” said Gaekwad.

The 60-year-old former coach’s 1998 India team had Navjot Singh Sidhu and Nayan Mongia opening the innings and the duo had a century stand in each of the Test matches that India won way back then. Australia were thwarted by a 122-run opening stand in the opening Test at Chennai before Sidhu and Mongia piled up 191 in India’s only innings at Kolkata. Shane Warne never forgets Sachin Tendulkar’s 155 in Chennai, but he also remembers Sidhu’s onslaughts.

Age no bar
The fact that Jaffer is six days away from celebrating his 35th birthday doesn’t worry Gaekwad. “Look, even Sunil Gavaskar will agree that batsmen mature late. I don’t see age as a problem as long as Jaffer is fit and to me, he doesn’t look unfit. And as I said before, what great options do we have,” he stressed. Jaffer last played a Test in 2008.

While it must be noted that Gambhir has not scored a Test hundred in three years, Suresh Raina will stake a claim in the middle order alongwith Ajinkya Rahane. Both have kept the scorers busy in the Irani Cup game. Yuvraj Singh is not expected to make the cut.

Viru, Bhajji likely to be picked
Sehwag could well escape the axe since he scored a hundred in the opening Test against England. The Delhi dasher couldn’t be part of the Irani Cup owing to a stomach ailment. Harbhajan got just one Test match against England (second Test at Mumbai) but could claim only a couple of wickets. Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin are certainties in the spin department but Harbhajan may get the nod ahead of leg-spinner Piyush Chawla. The Sardar has claimed 81 wickets at home against Australia.

Meanwhile, fast bowler S Sreesanth is expected to make a comeback, but will have competition in the form of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami Ahmed, Abhimanyu Mithun and  Ashok Dinda.

Wasim Jaffer’s 2012-13 Ranji Trophy scores
> 80 and 19 vs Bengal
> 79 and 71 vs Saurashtra
> 18 and 67 vs Madhya Pradesh
> 171 and DNB vs Gujarat
> 150 and 33 vs Baroda
> 15 vs Services
> 132 vs Saurashtra 

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