Of the many things in India that symbolize patriotic terms like national integration and unity in diversity, our cricket team stands as a prime example. People from all walks of life, from varied backgrounds – irrespective of caste, creed and culture have represented India with the utmost pride. We celebrated T. Natarajan’s success as one of our very own – an unassuming boy, who rose from a poor village in Tamil Nadu to create history Down Under. Bishan Singh Bedi, Tiger Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar and now the likes of Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin and Cheteshwar Pujara – talent comes in from different corners of the country. But, they all represent ‘India’ as one team.
One such hardworking player, Wasim Jaffer made his India debut back in 2000. The son of a bus driver, the former batsman made his way up through the hard yards in first-class cricket. Although his potential in international cricket could not be tapped, Wasim Jaffer went on to become a domestic legend. Recently though, the controversy that emerged following his resignation as coach of the Uttarakhand side was not only disappointing but highly shocking as well.
Religion has rarely been brought into discussion in Indian cricket to date. It’s more of a political trait. However, the Uttarakhand incident can set a dangerous precedent. For the good of Indian cricket, it should never have happened this way. One doesn’t really know the inside details of the story. While Jaffer has rubbished angles of communal selection, the Uttarakhand cricket association has been brazen in its allegations against the former India cricketer.
While the Uttarakhand body does have a right to question Jaffer, as they had appointed him under a contract, the religion angle should never have come out in the open. It could prove highly destructive if other cricket board officials follow suit. They could have openly criticised Jaffer’s working methods as a coach. However, to make a headline out of his religion was completely uncalled for. If the officials indeed had an issue with some of Jaffer’s rituals and conduct with regards to his religion, they should have spoken to him in person. Openly levelling such dangerous allegations against a cricketer of repute has achieved little other than harming the secular image of Indian cricket.
Silence of Jaffer’s former teammates baffling
Another aspect that must have hurt the former India batsman in this whole controversy is the silence of his former teammates, most of whom have gone on to play for India with great distinction. At one of the recent press conferences. Jaffer’s former Mumbai teammate and current Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane pleaded ignorance when asked about the controversy. ‘No idea’ was his response at a time when the issue was spreading like hot fire on social media. And, we all know how active Rahane is on social media.
Why just Rahane, most of the cricketing superstars of the country have been very much ‘silent’ on this internal matter of Indian cricket. These are the very same people, who did not think twice before toeing the government’s line on the farmers’ protest controversy, telling a popular foreign pop star not to interfere in India’s internal matters. And here, there was one of their own, battling allegations that no cricketer would like to face. And yet, except a couple like Anil Kumble and Irfan Pathan, none felt the need to speak up.
Standing in solidarity with Jaffer was a great opportunity for Indian cricket to demonstrate that they are one. By not backing him, they have raised question marks over the unity in the Indian cricket fraternity. Dangerous minds who would want to rake up the religious issue again in Indian cricket have been given a soft signal that their views won’t be protested. Unless someone has the guts to stand up and nip such controversies in the bud, the religious syndrome could prove highly detrimental to Indian cricket.