At 31, Wasim Jaffer was told by one of the national selectors that he will not be in the reckoning for India duty after "passing the selection age".
He was "hurt" by the selector's comment in 2008, but the love for the game and wearing the Mumbai jersey keeps the now 35-year-old Ranji Trophy record holder to carry on.
Having made his first-class debut in 1996-97 and now being the most run scorer and century maker in India's premier domestic tournament, Jaffer is in no mood to quit. The right-handed opener wants to bat on despite not considered for India berth.
Jaffer, with 51 first-class centuries and close to 17,000 runs, has been a batting giant in Indian domestic circuit. He is only the eighth Indian to score 50 or more first-class tons.
In an exclusive interview with ThatsCricket, Jaffer speaks about his life as a cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar's influence on him, the "khadoos" nature of Mumbai cricket, youngsters focusing on Twenty20 over four-day games among other issues.
Here are the excerpts
Question: Last year, you relinquished Mumbai captaincy. This season, you are back. Is it because the team is young and they needed a senior to guide them?
Wasim Jaffer: Yes, I did. They had no option. Abhishek Nayar got injured, Aditya Tare and those lots are in the second season and it is very hard work for them. Tare keeps wickets and opens batting. That is the reason why Mumbai wanted me to groom youngsters and lead them.
Q: What keeps you motivated to keep playing cricket and how long will you carry on?
Jaffer: I don't know how long I will carry on. Obviously I enjoy playing cricket even though I am not being picked for India for a long time even after doing well. I am lucky to play for Mumbai. There are a lot of expectations, demands are quite a lot. Being a senior it is nice to be around youngsters, guide them, teach them, that keeps me going. Scoring runs makes me happy.
At the end of the day, you want to play for India there is no doubt about it. But when that does not happen I still enjoy coming into first-class cricket and scoring runs. The whole aim is not to just play for India. I love this game. I enjoy batting, I enjoy scoring runs. I should not give up early and regret it later.
Q: How many years of cricket are left in you?
Jaffer: I don't keep a target. As long as I am enjoying and there are no serious injuries I will try and carry on.
Q: Does it hurt being ignored for Team India selection despite scoring big runs?
Jaffer: It does hurt. You want to score runs to get picked for India. I have got selected couple of times and dropped. In 2008, I had a very good season and scored 1,260 runs in Ranji Trophy alone. One of the selectors then told me that I have passed my age (for India selection) when I was only 31. That really hurt me to hear such a comment from a national selector. Somebody who is 31 and you are saying you have passed that age. I think batsmen and spin bowlers mature a much later not like a fast bowler whose physical fitness demands are different. That was hurting. Even then I was scoring consistently.
Last year I came very close (to selection) when I scored a hundred in Ranji Trophy final and in Irani Cup. However, the selectors preferred Shikhar (Dhawan). Obviously he did fantastically well. No regrets about it. One of the motivations is to win the Ranji Trophy. We get lot of chances to win. I alone have won Ranji Trophy eight times. So that keeps me motivated. If I was playing for some other state which does not qualify maybe the motivation factor would have been less. I play for Mumbai and there is always a chance of winning. There is a chance for you to contribute to win that trophy and that keeps me going.
Q: What is the secret of Mumbai's success?
Jaffer: I think our club cricket, school cricket has a lot to do for that. The youngsters play lot of matches and mature quite early than other teams. There are lot of players to look up to and there is rich history. There are so many players to come and tell you to pull your socks up if you are not playing well. And vice versa too, people are there to back you (when out of form).
There is no comfort zone. If players are taking shortcuts, people will come and let you not to. By the time a player reaches Ranji Trophy, he is a complete product. Obviously the "Khadoos" nature in Mumbai - to win at all costs is instilled at a very young age. A lot of other teams can take defeat easily but in Mumbai we really feel bad. When we lose it hurts us badly. We need to pull our socks up that is in our culture. You need to push the limits to be a better player.