In search of 100, Nayar begins a new journey

Abhishek Nayar says he won't be carrying any baggage as he makes a move to Puducherry from Mumbai cricket.

Abhishek Nayar will play for Puducherry in this year's Ranji Trophy.   -  M Vedhan

The last two decades in Mumbai cricket has taught Abhishek Nayar how to control his emotions even in the toughest of times. With every success, failures have come his way. But imbibing the ‘khadoos’ culture that Mumbai cricket is known for, Nayar has been able to take things in his stride.

Perhaps that's why, even as Nayar ends his 20-year-long association with Mumbai cricket, he is a ‘happy man’. Heading to Puducherry for this edition of the Ranji Trophy, Nayar also has his eyes set on the milestone 100th match. He had played his 99th Ranji Trophy game last year before being dropped in middle of the season. But now, shifting allegiance to a new team, Nayar hopes to motivate young guns.

Before he leaves for Anantpur on Tuesday to join Puducherry’s pre-season camp, Nayar spoke at length to Sportstar on Monday afternoon.

Excerpts...

Leaving Mumbai after 20 years must be an emotional decision. How would you describe your journey?

Right now, I am in a good space. While I move out, I am not carrying any baggage. I am a very happy man. I have done my bit for Mumbai cricket and have achieved whatever I could from here. I think I can add some experience to the Puducherry side, which will be playing its first Ranji Trophy. It would be nice if I can add some value to the new team and that’s why I am very excited. I want to see how cricket is out of Mumbai.

You are one short of playing your 100 Ranji Trophy match. Does is hurt you that despite giving everything to Mumbai cricket, you now have to shift elsewhere to play the milestone match?

Last year also I played a couple of crucial games for the team. I remember playing against Baroda, where I stayed long at the crease to earn a draw. The last game I played (against Andhra), I could score 35. But we were 180-7 when I came into bat. Me and Dhawal Kulkarni took the score to 300, which is why we took lead in the first innings. It is not about what I have done in the last game. It really doesn’t matter. If I would have scored a 100 in my last game, (maybe) I would have looked back and said, ‘Oh man, I scored a 100, so why did I leave?’

But I am leaving at a time when I felt Mumbai has moved forward and there are a lot of young and very excited cricketers, who are going to fight for that all-rounder’s slot in the team. It is their journey now and they should be looking forward. I shouldn't be the one denying them that.

You were axed from the side in middle of the tournament. You were even ignored from the pre-season camp this year. Don’t you think that a stalwart like you should have been treated more respectfully?

I believe so. But the problem is, over the years, everyone is treated in a certain way that it has become okay in the system. I believe it will change in time. As a professional, you need to accept it and move on. That’s what I am trying to do — move on and not hold any grudges. I don’t want to take any baggage with me.

As Puducherry enters Ranji Trophy arena, it has roped in a lot of Mumbai cricketers as players and coaching staff. Do you think it will help the youngsters imbibe the khadoos culture?

Exactly. Mr. Damodaran (Cricket Association of Puducherry’s secretary) wanted to imbibe the Mumbai culture in the team and that’s why there are so many cricketers from Mumbai in that set-up. They can inculcate the values and routines that Mumbai cricket has followed so far. I think these people are perfect in that regard. It is a great thing that a lot of good people are being picked by Mr. Damodaran. These people (from Mumbai) have toiled, worked hard and know how to get the best out of it. Together, we want to add some value to Puducherry cricket.

What will your exact role be? Will you be leading the side?

I won’t be leading for sure. I would have led only if I would have continued for the next five years. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to lead a side for (a shorter period) and later leave them high and dry. I am looking at taking someone young who can stay and hold the mantle for the next five to seven years. We can groom him with all the experience we have got. That way, later he can comfortably lead the side on his own without any problems.