Cricket Association of Uttarakhand (CAU) which had accused former Team India and Test player Wasim Jaffer of communalizing cricket and forced his resignation as coach, is unable to explain a photograph on its website showing a puja on the pitch.
The photograph on the association’s website of the ceremony is said to be from October 2020. The selection of the senior cricket team was then preceded by religious rituals in the presence of the team manager Navneet Mishra. Barefooted officials can be seen with flowers, garlands, incense sticks and a coconut propitiating the stumps in the presence of bemused players.
The association had objected to a ‘maulvi’ invited to Friday prayers in the dressing room. Jaffar in his resignation letter mentioned that he had not invited any maulvi to the dressing room.
The maulvi had been invited by the captain Iqbal Abdullah and not him. On his part Iqbal Abdullah claimed that he had sought and obtained the permission of the team manager Navneet Mishra. But cricket fans, players and the rival lobby of the association are asking how the association can disown its own role in conducting a religious ceremony on the ground.
The controversy refuses to die down. Wasim Jaffer had cited interference in selection by the Secretary of the Cricket Association of Uttarakhand (CAU) and in day-to-day training and practice of the team. Undeserving players were being promoted by the secretary, he had said.
The secretary, Mahim Verma, in turn accused the coach of communal bias. He was accused of favouring Muslim players and arranging ‘maulvis’ for holding Friday prayers in the dressing room and of violating the bio bubble created during pandemic.
Not surprisingly, BCCI is yet to officially comment on the incident. But a few Indian cricketers namely Anil Kumble, Irfan Pathan and Manoj Tewari came out in support of Wasim Jaffer. Congress leader and MP Rahul Gandhi also tweeted, “In the last few years, hate has been normalised so much that our beloved sports cricket has also been marred by it”.
The tweet prompted Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat to hold a discussion with office bearers of the association to discuss the issue. One of the vice-presidents of the association, Sanjay Rawat, happens to be the CM’s nephew. It was learnt that the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) is also contemplating an inquiry into the entire episode.
Several cricket associations had mushroomed in Uttarakhand after the state was created in November 2000. Due to four warring cricket associations, Uttarakhand had failed to get affiliation from BCCI till 2019 when all the four warring associations were persuaded to form a single entity, the Cricket Association of Uttarakhand (CAU).