Amol Muzumdar has been the most prolific batsman in the domestic circuit. Having made his First Class debut for Mumbai in the 1993/94 season against Haryana, he had amassed 11,167 runs from 260 innings, unbeaten on 28 occasions, at an average of 48.13 and an individual best of 260 runs. He also has 30 centuries and 60 half-centuries to his credit. He played his last Ranji Trophy game representing Andhra against Maharashtra in Nov-Dec 2013, before hanging up his boots.
Well, with a statistics as above, any player would have been expected to don the national colours and represent the nation for a very long period of time and win many laurels for the country.
However, destiny had something else in store for this cricketer, who was, at one point of time, regarded as the ‘next Tendulkar’.
Amongst his busy schedule, Amol took out some time to talk to our correspondent, Subramanian Krishnamurthi, about his early days, his disappointments on not making it to the national team, not being part of IPL and also on the modern cricket.
Ask him how he keeps himself busy these days and whether he has moved on from the game, Amol says, “Of course, I am still very much connected to the game. Cricket is my life. I do a lot of commentary work for bcci.tv covering domestic cricket extensively. I am also into coaching. I had, recently, spent a full month at NCA, for coaching the U19 guys.”
Amol was in the same school, Shardashram Vidya Mandir (SVM) as Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli. The Harris Shield Tournament 1988 saw a world record being created. In the semi-final match between SVM and St Xavier’s High School, Sachin and Kambli put up the then world-record partnership of 664 runs. Ironically Amol was due to bat next but got a chance. What was going on in his mind then?
He says, “It was interesting. Not many things in my memory now. All I did was expecting to bat in that match. But that never happened. I was very young for something to be going on in the mind. Fortunately, I saw a world record unfold in front of us. Ultimately winning the game was on top of everything and that happened.”
Muzumdar made his Ranji Trophy debut in 1993/94 season against Haryana and established a world record. Occupying the crease for 639 minutes, he notched up 260 runs, the most by a debutant in First Class cricket. How would he recall that innings?
“Oh, it was very special innings, very dear innings for me since that knock set me on the right path in First Class cricket. Eventually, I went on to play for 21 long years. That innings had a very big impact in my mind. Looking back at my career I feel that was one of the most pleasant moments in my life.”
Thanks to the performances in the domestic circuit, Amol was billed to be the ‘next Tendulkar’ but the closest he came to don the national colours was playing for India A in 1994-95 alongside Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly.
Ask him the reason as to why he could never enter the Indian dressing room in any format of the game. He says, “I cannot pinpoint any one reason. It is not possible to find one reason for that. I also feel a little surprised when I look back at my career. Let alone making to the Indian dressing room, I could not even make it to the list of 30 probables even once in my entire career. That is what is more shocking. I really don’t know.”
“Yes, runs are important. I had prolific seasons. I had scored a lot of runs. Maybe the talent was there. The numbers say so. The ‘wise men’ in BCCI, probably had other views on me,” he adds.
Would he consider himself as the most unlucky cricketer that in spite of having the talent and a wonderful domestic record was unable to make it big? Does he feel that you should have been given at least one opportunity to fail?
“Well, definitely at least one call was expected. However, I would not consider myself unlucky. In fact, I have been lucky enough to play the game for such a long time. It has given me a career, my livelihood. So I am not unlucky. But yes, it really feels bad at not having made it really big and that is the saddest part,” says the former Mumbai skipper.
Amol has been a middle-order batsman and has been playing the game in an era when the Indian middle-order was occupied by the Fab Four – Sachin, Dravid, Saurav and Laxman. These players ‘selected themselves’ in the Indian squad and into the Playing XI.
Had he opted to shift to the ‘opening slot’ maybe he could have had his opportunity to do national duty? Says Amol, “Possibly, it could have been so. VVS started off as an opener but later on moved on to the middle-order. I was surprised how he shifted after playing for four years as an opener.”
“Yes, I did give it a thought but decided not to change. I had scored too many runs in the middle-order and hence thought I should continue the same,” he adds.
Shifting focus to the modern day cricket, did he think that it was time for Kohli to take over the mantle in all formats of the game. The 41-year old said “Yes Kohli should take over but only when Dhoni wants him to. Dhoni is the best Indian captain ever. People may talk otherwise and have other ideas.”
“So when Dhoni decides to retire from all formats, Kohli could be there to take over.”
Muzumdar has very high views on the young Ajinkya Rahane. He says, “I have no doubt about the fact that Rahane should be a permanent member of the team in all formats. I have said this so many times that if you are good in Test, you are good in all formats. His basics and fundamentals are very strong.”
Focusing on the current crop of fast bowlers, he says, “I think we have a set of bowlers who are best in the business. Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav and Md Shami, are all talented. Over a period of time, they will succeed.”
“We are always trying to follow the Australian way. We feel all bowlers are to be stout and well-built and hence give a lot of importance to the gym activities. We should realise that our body structure is different and are in different skill set. We need to deal it in a different way.”
Talking about Ravichandran Ashwin, Amol says, “I have no doubt about his batting ability. I had seen him come in at No 3 for a Ranji game and score useful 30-40 runs. He has a good sense of batting. He already had a couple of Test centuries earlier and the third one just would have boosted his morale.”
Was Ashwin underutilised as a batsman earlier? “No”, says Amol. “Since Dhoni was occupying the No 6 slot, Ashwin had to bat lower down. Now that Dhoni is no in the Test team, Ashwin is the best bet,” he adds.
Asked about the Indian Test wicket-keepers, Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel not making it to the national team, Muzumdar says, “I have no idea. Maybe I am the wrong person to comment on that.”
Commenting on Wridhhiman Saha, he says, “I feel Saha should continue. He should be given sufficient opportunities and help him develop in confidence.”
Should KL Rahul be looked at for the coveted job?
Amol says, “Wicket-keeping is a specialist job. It needs a different mindset. Rahul is only a ‘makeshift keeper’. Moreover, Rahul is in a great frame of mind with his batting. It would be unwise to burden him with the wicket-keeping responsibilities.”
As the discussion continued, the focus shifted to IPL. Asked whether he regretted not having been able to play in IPL? He says, “Yes I regret. I was very much disappointed not to make it to the national team but I was disheartened not to play the IPL. There are 8 franchises which, at one point of time, went to ten. Not one of them found me suitable to play in IPL?”
Has IPL really helped the cause of Indian cricket?
Amol says, “You need to look at IPL in a different angle. After the advent of the tournament, India’s performance in the last five odd years has definitely improved a lot in ODIs and T20Is. There is absolutely no doubt in that. India also has become the most sought-after destination for playing cricket. However, IPL is not the correct platform to pick players for the longer version.”
Talking about Jasprit Bumrah, who has shown a lot of promise, Amol says, “He is definitely a Test material. He has got a terrific strength. He will perform well in all formats. He has a good control and the ability to bowl 6 yorkers in an over. His performance for Gujarat should also be kept in mind while assessing him. But he is likely to be injury prone due to overwork.”
Is Amol mulling the idea of stating an academy?
“Well yes. I am thinking in those terms. However, there are some restrictions like space crunch. Hopefully, it will all fall in place. I definitely would like to contribute. The aim is not to start an academy just for the heck of it. Would be looking to producing results,” said a beaming Muzumdar.
Ask him about coaching, he says, “I have already been involved in coaching. Even in Netherlands, I was involved in coaching. Commentary work keeps me busy. I had recently spent one month in NCA for the U19 coaching. Sharing my knowledge and experience with the youngsters was very satisfying. This one month was the time very well spent over half a decade.”
Finally, asked what would he advise the youngsters who are eyeing IPL contracts even before they finish school? The most prolific batsman that the domestic circuit had been said, “Nothing wrong in eyeing an IPL contract. You have placed a silver spoon in front of the child and now you cannot deny it. However, the youngsters also should realise and understand that IPL is not all.”
“They should prepare themselves for playing at the highest level. They should look to represent the country,” he concluded.
A tinge of disappointment was very much palpable in Amol’s voice at not being able to make it to even to the list of 30 problems, even once in his long career, let alone making it to the Indian dressing room, in any format of the game.
Amol Muzumdar, a sheer talent, the nation could never make use of.