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Wasim Jaffer: India v Bangladesh: Wasim Jaffer, just a face in the crowd

BIRMINGHAM: Sitting behind a sea of frenetic, flag-waving Bangladeshi fans is a bearded gentleman in a black tracksuit, his eyes peering through the fluid sea of spectators. Every once in a while, a dancing fan interrupts his gaze and he shifts his head sideways. No one recognizes him. Standing at long off, Yuvraj Singh attracts all the attention.

Wasim Jaffer, former India opener, the highest scorer in the Ranji, Duleep, Irani and Vijay Hazare trophies, the Mumbai batsman with a fondness for the double and triple ton, is just a face in the Edgbaston crowd.

A friendly nod of the head and a warm “Hello, how are you” later, he has company. Jaffer played his last Test in 2008, replaced by Gautam Gambhir, who too is now gone. The Mumbai opener retailed to the snub with a couple more years of prolific batsmanship but luck, and the selection panel, wasn’t on his side. Many feel Jaffer didn’t get his due at international level but the batsman himself has no time for self-pity. “Not anymore,” he says, ” Ab toh kaafi time ho gaya (a lot of time has passed). There was a time when I felt I could have contributed more. Now I’m just watching India play,” he says.

The hunger to bat on, though, is still an everyday affliction. Jaffer is in the UK for a few months, playing for Moddershall and Oulton Cricket Club near Straffordshire, and the completely anonymity of playing for a Division 2 club allows him to indulge in what is still both occupation and hobby. “I’m still enjoying my batting and the scores are still coming. I come here every year in April-May and stay till October. My family joins me, it becomes a nice holiday.” Life on the English club-cricket circuit isn’t all peaches and cream for a retired international cricketer. “Sometimes when my friends join me, it’s good, someone else does the cooking. Otherwise one has to do everything on one’s own. I don’t mind, the contracts are decent. It’s a way to keep your hand in the game.” In the past, Jaffer has played for Scholes CC and Himley CC in the Birmingham and District Premier League.

“I still have the joy,” he says. “Why would I bother otherwise? Playing anywhere on the domestic circuits is tiring business.”

Some like Jaffer can’t seem to get enough of it, though, as he begins to explain in detail when the conversation is interrupted. Kedar Jadhav has just bowled dangerman Tamim Iqbal and Jaffer is squealing in delight. “Masterstoke,” he screams, his eyes twinkling. He looks wistfully at the bunch of celebrating Indian cricketers and smiles, seemingly sharing their joy.

For an instant, he is oblivious to everything else. For an instant, he is back to being an Indian cricketer, one who will always belong out there in the middle.

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Wasim Jaffer: India v Bangladesh: Wasim Jaffer, just a face in the crowd


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