Abhishek Nayar — Mumbai's MVP

This season, Abhishek Nayar has played nine matches, scored 462 runs with a century (103 not out against Madhya Pradesh in Raipur) and has taken 21 wickets.

Vivek Bendre

Abhishek Nayar... Mumbai's trump card.

Abhishek Nayar has played 83 matches for Mumbai, scored 4665 runs with 11 centuries and 27 half-centuries, delivered 10165 balls and taken 142 wickets at 30.63; and he has figured in Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy wins.

The purists would scoff at his batting stance — feet very wide apart — and probably would not be inclined to lavish praise on his medium pace bowling. But many of his team-mates, who have spent 11 years in the Mumbai dressing room with him, would understand his knowledge of the game, the way he has utilised his resources and turned out to be the side's Most Valuable Player a number of times.

If Mumbai is in the final of the Ranji Trophy this season, his captain and other players would be ready to give an 'A' rank to Nayar; that’s how he’s performed, especially in the quarterfinals against Hyderabad and in the semifinals against Tamil Nadu. He scored 58 and took four wickets against Tamil Nadu in the first innings in Rajkot and scored 59 and took four for 60 and five for 40 against Hyderabad earlier in the quarterfinals in Raipur.

This season he has played nine matches, scored 462 runs with a century (103 not out against Madhya Pradesh in Raipur) and has taken 21 wickets.

Mumbai skipper Aditya Tare, who holds Nayar in high esteem said: "He loves playing cricket, loves playing for Mumbai and that’s seen by everyone. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s a great senior player to have. The determination he shows is infectious. He’s been a crucial player for us for the past two seasons. It was a barren spell two seasons ago, but he’s come back and won matches single-handedly for Mumbai throughout the season. Whenever we were under pressure, he was my go-to-man with bat and ball. He did especially well in the quarterfinals and semifinals."

Like a majority of cricketers, Nayar has been laid low by injuries; a serious wrist injury, perhaps, was the worst, but he has shown fierce determination, commitment and respect to the game. There was a time when he would dance down the track and play big scoring shots and provide acceleration, but these days he doesn’t leave the crease much. He’s a tough nut to crack while defending, and very smart with the ball, not offering free hits. The Gujarat coach, Vijay Patel, said: "He keeps the ball close to the off-stump, does not swing the ball much and he is always at the batsman."

Nayar and debutant Shubham Ranjane kept Bengal at bay in a crucial league match played in Nagpur. In the second innings he was sent to bat at No. 7. "We thought, having him (Nayar) down the order would help us. We weren’t going for the chase, so he was the best man to hold fort," said Tare. Nayar played for 200 minutes, faced 135 balls to make 51 and prevented Bengal from getting six points.

In the absence of Dhawal Kulkarni, Nayar has taken a good workload, bowling 229.1 overs, little less than seamer Tushar Deshpande. Shardul Thakur has bowled the most — 279.4 overs for his 22 wickets. When Nayar is in action with the ball, he generally keeps the batsmen guessing and that’s what he would strive to do against Gujarat at the Holkar Stadium.