Who after Dhoni? Nayan Mongia bats for Saha in ODIs

Former India wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia says Test specialist Wriddhiman Saha deserves a chance as he is one of the best available.

Nayan Mongia was quite a star in the ‘90s. He kept wickets with a lot of enthusiasm.   -  The Hindu

Nayan Mongia will be remembered as one of the fittest bodies behind the wicket. He arrived at a time when ‘keeping to Anil Kumble on Indian pitches required acrobatics. The Baroda stumper kept in two World Cups — in 1996 and 1999 — and was part of the historic Test against Australia at Eden Gardens in 2001; unfortunately, that was his swansong.

Mongia was quite a star in the ‘90s. He kept wickets with a lot of enthusiasm. The stump mic booming with “bowling, Jumbo!” and “Aiga” would agree.

In a free-wheeling chat with Sportstar, Mongia discussed the Indian wicketkeeping bench and the drills that can keep them fit as the coronavirus-induced lockdown continues in some states.

Excerpts...

How have you been amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

It has been difficult but we have our surgical business, so it has been busy, even in these four months. I have been working. It has been tough for everybody, for the entire world.

File picture of Nayan Mongia.   -  The Hindu Archives

 

The no sporting action period has been a challenge for the sports fraternity in India. How can the 'keepers stay fit and be game-ready?

Training at home, they can do their body weight, a lot of stretching and skipping. Now you are not allowed to go out in the pandemic but whatever space you have, you have to make best use of that, you have to prepare yourself. You have to psych yourself, visualise, watch your matches, improve on that, work on that.

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You were a very fit wicketkeeper. What kind of training did you do in your days?

Each and every cricketer knows his body. How much he needs to train, how much he needs to do, how much he needs to work out, his strong and weak points. I knew my body very well and I trained according to that. I ensured I didn’t get any injury. I did not do much weight training but I did a lot of running. Even now, I do one hour of training everyday.

What are your thoughts on Mahendra Singh Dhoni? We don't know whether he will play again but how happy do you feel to see a superstar who is a wicketkeeper?

Whatever you say about Dhoni is less, what he has achieved as an Indian cricketer is phenomenal. He has improved over a period of time. He took it to a different level. I feel very proud of him that he did well for himself and the country.  

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"Whatever you say about Dhoni is less, what he has achieved as an Indian cricketer is phenomenal," Mongia says.   -  AP

 

India is still struggling to find a permanent 'keeper in limited-overs after Dhoni. Rishabh Pant has been around but now K.L. Rahul is doing the job. There are players such as Sanju Samson, Ishan Kishan, K.S. Bharat and even Dinesh Karthik in fray while Wriddhiman Saha continues being a Test specialist. Who is your pick?

It is good to have a healthy competition. Everybody is knocking on the door of the Indian team. Saha is very talented. He should be given a long run. He has had his part of injuries in his professional career but as long as he is fit and doing well, I think they should persist with Saha as he is one of the best ‘keeper available in India right now.

Even in ODIs and T20Is?

You have Pant but I would like to see Saha play in ODIs as well. You need a regular 'keeper and he should bat as well. He is a genuine 'keeper. If K.L. doesn’t do well, I would prefer Saha in ODIs. Pant is still upcoming and Kishan has a long way to go. Bharat is also doing well.

K.L's batting improves if he is 'keeping in a game...

Once you start keeping in ODIs for all 50 overs and when you have to bat, you are already sighting the ball very well. He is doing well, there is no doubt about it. It's his honeymoon period in ODIs and he is at the peak of his career.

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Nayan Mongia bats for Wriddhiman Saha.   -  PTI

 

Going back to your career, did you watch the 1996 and 1999 India-Pakistan World Cup games on television during the lockdown?

I could not watch unfortunately as I was in the office the whole day. I got a lot of messages and phone calls from my friends who relived the match. Venkatapathy Raju called me after witnessing the stumping of Rashid Latif off his bowling. We had a long chat that day. Playing for India was a great moment for such a long time. I am very thankful to the BCCI and I had a great time sharing the dressing room with legends. I cherish and I miss every moment.

READ: What makes Mahendra Singh Dhoni a superstar

The Eden Test in 2001 was your last game in red-ball cricket unfortunately but what a match to be part of. Any memory from those five tense days in Kolkata?

It was the turning point of Indian cricket. The thought that we can win a Test match from any situation made the side stronger. The way V.V.S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid batted was phenomenal. I was padded up.

It is known that you want to give it back to the game. Tell us more about it.

I want to come back to the game if given an opportunity by the BCCI. I have a knack of looking at junior players, giving them the right opportunity. I want no youngster to go through what I did. If given a chance, I would like to become a national selector in any capacity, either senior or junior.

Mongia in numbers

Tests: 44

Catches: 99

Stumpings: 8

50s: 6

100s: 1

Runs: 1,442

 

ODIs: 140

Catches: 110

Stumpings: 44

50s: 2

Runs: 1,272

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