Missing the India bus, he might play for Holland!

Amol Muzumdarwith his family before announcing his retirement.-PTI

Batsman Amol Muzumdar, who announced his retirement recently, hoped for an India cap for 10 years! G. Viswanath relates the tale of the player.

By some quirk of fate Amol Muzumdar has fallen into the category of those who have missed the bus of Test match cricket. He deserved the India cap, but the coveted honour did not come his way in the course of a career spanning 22 years. An honest toiler who kept his chin up in adversity and scored plenty of runs typifying the old fashioned Bombay batsman, Muzumdar is all set to start a new life after turning 40 on November 11.

No cricket pundit has been able to come up with a convincing answer as to why the Mumbai middle order batsman was not able to make the supreme breakthrough of playing for the country.

MUZUMDAR WITH HIS REVERED COACH RAMAKANT ACHREKAR before announcing his retirement.-PTI

The selectors have been taciturn all the while. In the course of his 45-minute interaction with the media at the Khar Gymkhana (on September 25), where Muzumdar announced that he was calling it a day and looked forward to keeping in touch with the game as a commentator and coach, all he said was he kept trying (for India selection) till the first few years of the new millennium.

Muzumdar began his career in 1993-94 and straightaway competed for middle order positions with batsmen who were held in awe and admiration by fans. He said it was fantastic to play in the era of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and V. V. S. Laxman. He went on to say that he felt satisfied with his career, was happy meeting his coach Ramakant Achrekar and receive a complimentary message from Tendulkar that his longevity was because of his fierce determination and commitment to the game.

MUZUMDAR WITH MUMBAI COACH PRAVIN AMRE and stalwart Rahul Dravid in 2007. Playing in the era in which Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V. V. S. Laxman played was a blessing, says Muzumdar.-PTI

With his immediate family members — father, mother, wife and daughter — at the hall, Muzumdar repeated a number of times that he was a satisfied man, but probably there ought to have been occasions when he and his near and dear ones were frustrated and hurt at his not making the higher grade.

As a lean and mean 19-year-old batsman he made 260 on his Ranji Trophy debut for Bombay against Haryana in Faridabad. It was an effort that showed his considerable talent and ambition and the performance was far superior when juxtaposed with the debut display of the Bombay/Mumbai stalwarts such as Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri, Sandeep Patil, Sanjay Manjrekar, Chandrakant Pandit, Praveen Amre, Lalchand Rajput, Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, Wasim Jaffer, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. Moreover, he was able to sustain the promise-potential tag almost right through his career, until he gave up probably after the 2005-6 season.

When asked to describe his long career he said: “At the moment, I have got an absolutely satisfied feeling. That’s one of the things I realised this morning. I would describe my long innings as a good, solid, satisfying one. Every cricketer or every sportsman craves for that satisfying feeling. When you play a sport, you give your best, no matter which team you play for. It’s been a satisfying journey all through my 21 years in first-class cricket. Of course, I dreamt of playing for the country. I would be lying if I say I didn’t. But over the years, I came to terms with all those things. I am a completely satisfied man as far as my cricket is concerned because I have given my best every time I have stepped on to the ground.”

Muzumdar also preferred to look at the brighter side of playing during a time that was dominated by a set of batsmen who came from Mumbai, Bengal, Karnataka and Hyderabad. When asked if he was born in the wrong era, his reply was to the contrary. “To be honest, I was plain lucky to have been born in that era. It was a fantastic era to have played in when you had four greats playing for India — Tendulkar, Sourav, Dravid and VVS. And they went on to play 100 plus Test matches; so it was very tough to break in at that time. I feel blessed though to have played my cricket in that era. I don’t think I lacked anything. It’s just sheer coincidence that there were four players who played 100 plus Test matches. One had to accept it and move ahead.”

Muzumdar felt that he was in the running for a Test cap for almost 10 years. “The closest was in 1996-97 when I scored heavily in the Ranji Trophy and Irani Cup. Thereafter I felt that I would get a chance in 2004 and 2005.There was a generation shift in Indian cricket in 2003 and 04. I was not picked even after the 2005-06 season when I got a lot of runs. I wasn’t picked in any of the India A squads also. That was the time I felt it was a closed shop for me. Until then I kept thinking that there would be an opening somewhere.”

For someone who grew up seeing Gavaskar, Vengsarkar and Mohinder Amarnath, it never occurred to Muzumdar that he needed to shift gears in order to impress the selectors. “As a cricketer or as a batsman you tend to evolve. In India, when a batsman scores 150 or 200, he is branded as a Test player or as a four-day player. I have always played according to the situation of the game because I was taught by Achrekar Sir to play to the situation. I have never allowed the game to get out of hand. I never thought of changing anything in my style of play.”

After a long innings with Mumbai, Muzumdar proceeded to play for Assam and Andhra as a professional. With more opportunities and better pay packets cricketers are looking to stretch their careers. “Of course there are incentives. But it all depends on the individual cricketer. I wanted to give something back. I knew I had something to offer in the last five years. A cricketer thinks that way. If he is looking at the monetary aspect, yes, there is some gain out of it nowadays in first-class cricket. But I was always of the opinion that I could offer something and give the teams in the Plate division a bit of boost and change their mindset. That is the reason I went there (Assam and Andhra).”

Muzumdar has also been playing cricket in the land of tulips for four years. “Yes, I would be playing in Holland throughout next year. In fact I would be eligible to play for Holland. The rule is that if you play five years continuously over there, you qualify to play for Holland, so I don’t know,” said Muzumdar, who has worked as a batting consultant for the Holland national team.