Wasim Jaffer Controversy: Mohammad Kaif Gets Emotional After Unfortunate Incident
The communal angle given to the recently brewed Wasim Jaffer controversy has not gone down well with many. While many former cricketers have come out in support of former India batsman, others are left to wonder, where did religion come in sport?
Mohammad Kaif and another former India player wrote in his column for the Indian Express, “I have played for teams in UP, different zones across the country, India, clubs and counties in England, and never have I been made conscious of my faith. I have worried about lack of runs, motivated my team-mates in bad form, wondered about how to win games. Never have I gone to sleep wondering what a team-mate might think of my religion.
Remembering his childhood days, Kaif went on to say that there was no segregation on the basis of religion, despite being brought near a Hindu household. “I come from Allahabad, my home was very close to a colony of pandits, where I fell in love with this great game. We played together and our lives were held by this common thread of sport. I am not even talking about the Indian team — just a local team in the neighbourhood where kids from all faiths would mingle and play towards a common goal. In hindsight, I feel my character was shaped there. This beautiful game is inclusive, brings together people of different temperaments, castes, economic backgrounds and faiths.
“I remember Sachin Tendulkar’s cricket kit bag and the picture of Sai Baba, whom he revered. By his side, VVS Laxman would have his gods. Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh … everyone to his faith. Sourav Ganguly, our captain, and John Wright, our coach from New Zealand, had taken out the zonal and regional differences. We weren’t playing for our regions, we didn’t see ourselves as UP or Bengal or Punjab or as Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian. We were playing for each other, for the team, for friends, for India.”
Finally speaking about Jaffer, Kaif said it would have been really tough for Jaffer to explain his stance. “It must have been very difficult for Jaffer to have to come out and explain his intentions. It tells a lot about the times we live in — where social media trolls do their worst to divide our country.
“For us cricketers, reputation and integrity is all we have. The trust and love we have got from the people rest on that. After a successful career, someone who takes up the job of a coach would want to create players of worth, a team culture that breeds success and unity. In some ways, it’s his reputation at stake. I remember Wright coming up with a slogan for our team in the World Cup — “Now or never”! The idea is simple: Unite the team to a common cause, get the energies moving in the same direction, focus the minds on the common goal. That’s what all good coaches do. Wright protected us from zonal affiliations and, together with Ganguly, removed any regional interests or biases from selections.
“Prayer is purely an individual thing. I don’t remember a formal namaz in my time in the dressing room, but I have read about how Graeme Hick, former England player, cleared his kit to make space for a young Moeen Ali to pray in the Worcestershire dressing room. Personally, for me, my faith is an individual affair. I don’t take it to the dressing rooms but that doesn’t mean it’s a crime if someone does. Each to their own. As long as they are not forcing it on someone else.”
And he ended with a sound advice to all the youngsters. “I want to tell young cricketers who are growing up in different parts of the country and dreaming about playing this game: Don’t get mixed up in all this mess. Stay pure, the game will reward you. It’s a beautiful game and for those of us who have been lucky enough to have played it for a living, there can be nothing sadder than to see communalism in it. It’s our responsibility, as adults, to leave our children with an unpolluted environment — in the world around us and in our own hearts. As the slogan of the Indian team I was part of went, it’s ‘Now or Never’.”