Ahead of IPL auction, Dhoni fan Abhay Negi slams fastest Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy fifty

Meghalaya all-rounder Abhay Negi, who slammed the fastest fifty in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy history, says he idolises former India captain MS Dhoni.

Negi broke Robin Uthappa's earlier record for the fastest fifty.   -  HOTSTAR SCREENGRAB

As Abhay Negi walked back to the dressing room at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday afternoon, he still could not believe that he just set a tournament record, a few minutes ago.

The 27-year-old — who has been playing for Meghalaya for two seasons now — hammered the fastest half-century in the history of Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, scoring 50 runs off just 14 balls against Mizoram.

More than the record, the all-rounder is happy to have played his bit for the team. “I got an opportunity to bat and I just played freely. That was the only plan, and then this happened,” Negi told Sportstar.

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Keeping things simple

“I wanted to keep this simple and I knew that I had to make the opportunities count and I just did that,” he added.

After making his first-class debut for Tripura in 2018, Negi played a lone T20 for the team in January that year. But with the BCCI allowing six teams from northeast to participate in its affiliated tournaments from last year, Negi moved to Meghalaya -- where he spent his formative years.

“My father was with the Army and was posted in Shillong, so when I was in standard eight, I moved to Shillong. I have played cricket there and have done my schooling at the Army School there, so when Meghalaya had a team last year, I was happy to be a part of it,” Negi said.

Playing for a new team, there were teething troubles, but Negi soon took things in his stride and emerged as one of the top bowlers of the team. And this season too, he has scalped six wickets in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. “It has been a learning experience and I am looking to improve my game with every passing day,” he said.

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Idolising Dhoni

Negi considers Mahendra Singh Dhoni as his idol. “I look forward to Dhoni for his calmness and his batting at the depth. I try and follow him,” he said.

While playing for Tripura two years ago, Negi remembers meeting Dhoni at the JSCA Stadium in Ranchi. “We met him and he was very cordial with us. He was very nice and that inspired us. I look up to him…”

His focus now shifts to the Ranji Trophy — which begins next month — but Negi hopes to get picked by an IPL franchise.

With the auction scheduled to be held in Kolkata on December 19, Negi is hopeful of finding a team. “Our matches in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy were telecast live, and with auction coming up, IPL is definitely on the mind. Franchises will be looking for all-rounders, who can score and can also bowl with new and old balls,” he said.

Fitness

After the tournament gets over, he plans to work on his fitness. “It is going to be a long Ranji Trophy season, where we will have to bowl longer spells. So, at the nets, I will bowl more and also work on my fitness,” he said.

As he basks in the glory, Negi remembers all his mentors and coaches, who have helped him. “I would like to thank Naba sir (Naba Bhattacharya, the former secretary of Meghalaya Cricket Association) for his support, and also my parents and my uncle (Narendra Negi) -- who has supported me throughout…”