Former India cricketer Wasim Jaffer, who recently quit as Uttarakhand coach owing to a dispute with the state association, on Wednesday rejected allegations that he tried to force religion-based selections in the team, reported PTI.

The 42-year-old, who played 31 Tests for India and is a celebrated name in domestic cricket, said the charge that he favoured Muslim players, which was allegedly levelled by Cricket Association of Uttarakhand secretary Mahim Verma in a media report, had caused him immense pain.

Jaffer had resigned on Tuesday citing “interference and bias of selectors and the association’s secretary for non-deserving players” as the reason.

“ communal angle lagaya (the communal angle that has been brought up), that is very, very sad,” Jaffer is quoted as saying by PTI in a virtual press conference.

“They levelled an allegation that I am in favour of Iqbal Abdulla, I wanted to make Iqbal Abdulla as the captain, which is absolutely wrong,” he said.

“I was going to make Jay Bista the captain, but Rizwan Shamshad and the other selectors suggested that you make Iqbal the captain… he is senior player, has played IPL and is much older...I agreed to their suggestion.”

The leading run-getter in Ranji Trophy also dismissed allegations that he brought Muslim religious scholars to the team’s training.

“First of all, they said the maulvis came there in a bio-bubble and we offered Namaz. Let me tell you one thing, the maulvi Maulana who came on two or three Fridays during the camp in Dehradun, I had not called him.

“It was Iqbal Abdulla (Uttarakhand player) who sought mine and the manager’s permission only for the Friday prayer,” he said referring to the 31-year-old all-rounder.

According to a report on Cricbuzz, Jaffer added that “Had I been communal, both Samad Fallah and Mohammad Nazim would have played all the games. It’s a very petty thing to say or even think. I wanted to give opportunities to newer players.” The report also added that Jaffer told his team to make sure the chants in team huddle should be for Uttarakhand and not for any community.

According to Jaffer, prayers took place after the team’s training and he cannot understand why it has become an issue.

“While we do our daily prayers in the room, the Friday prayers have to be done in a gathering so he thought it would be better if someone comes over to facilitate...And we did the namaz in the dressing room for five minutes after the nets.

“If I was communal, I could have adjusted the practice timings according to our prayer timings but that’s not the way I am,” he added.

Jaffer was appointed as the head coach of the state team in June 2020. He had signed a one-year contract with CAU. Uttarakhand won only one out of their 5 matches in the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

He had resigned from his post and wrote an email saying the interference in team matters made him sad.

“I feel really sad for the players as I genuinely think that they have lots of potential and can learn so much from me but are denied this opportunity because of so much interference and bias of selectors and secretary in the selection matters for non-deserving players,” Jaffer wrote in an e-mail to the Cricket Association of Uttarakhand, according to ESPNCricinfo.

Mahim Verma had turned the allegations around about interference.

“We gave him whatever he asked for, had a pre-season camp for a month, let him choose his outstation players, trainer and bowling coach, but his interference in selection matters was getting too much,” Verma had told PTI.

“After the result in Mushtaq Ali did not meet our expectations, the selectors wanted to try out a few other players but he kept insisting on picking his own team, which is not right as selectors are there, too, to do their job,” he had added.

(With PTI inputs)