Amol Muzumdar has silently bid adieu to his favourite Mumbai cap. The 34-year-old has been Mumbai’s most durable batsman from the mid nineties. He has decided to share his experience with Assam which has offered him captaincy and a chance to continue his first class career.
There’s no rancour in parting ways with one of the prominent teams in India’s domestic tournaments. He has been part of the Mumbai team that has won seven Ranji Trophy titles. He shared his thoughts about his immediate future plans. In this interview he said this about Sachin Tendulkar: “One Sachin Tendulkar is as good as six Mumbai players in the Indian team,” and that “it’s a heart-breaking and tough decision to move from Mumbai to Assam.” Excerpts:
After being the backbone of the Mumbai team for 16 years and 120 Ranji Trophy matches you have decided to make a move. How would you describe it…? Heart-breaking, tough, or was it just a plain decision?
Surely it will have to be a combination of all three. I have always been a Mumbai player and leaving Mumbai was never on my mind, so when the moment came for me to decide it’s indeed heart-breaking and tough. Assam has thrown a lot of challenges in terms of captaincy and to work with youngsters and building a strong team. That’s enough to keep me motivated.
What prompted the career-changing move? You will turn 35 this season. You have been part of Ranji winning Mumbai team for seven years and last year you were in the squad?
Not being selected for the preparatory tournament at Chennai was a strong indication. I was not selected in the initial squad for the Buchi Babu in Chennai.
Would you say you were disturbed or upset with certain happenings or it was just that you were looking for options to make a bigger contribution to Assam cricket?
Yes, I was disappointed with the way things were handled. I have made up my mind and now I am looking forward for my stint in Assam.
How would you describe your experience with Mumbai, its dressing room, the number of players you have played with? In your first season, Mumbai won the Ranji Trophy?
The image of Ravi Shastri lifting the Ranji Trophy in 1994 in front of the Wankhede crowd is still clear in my mind. I had the privilege of watching players like Sachin Tendulkar, Shastri, Sanjay Manjrekar and Vinod Kambli from close quarters. It’s been a big learning curve for me. Then came a phase with my friends who were an extremely talented bunch of cricketers like Abey Kuruvilla, Paras Mhambrey, Jatin Paranjape, Sulakshan Kulkarni, Sameer Dighe, Wasim Jaffer, Sunil More, Nilesh Kulkarni and Sairaj Bahutule. When these players were around, the dressing room used to be hysterical and light, but we went out and played some aggressive cricket. I would always cherish those special moments. Victories were special and we did celebrate them in style!
It’s in the last few years that many Mumbai players have been looking to play elsewhere. Vinit Indulkar and Bhavin Thakar for Himachal, Nishit Shetty for Orissa, Bahutule for Maharashtra. How far has Mumbai cricket changed from 1993-94 to 2009?
Yes it’s sad that some talented players have had to move away from Mumbai. But at least they are assured of an opportunity to display their talent and ability. Mumbai cricket hasn’t changed much...the khadoos attitude is still very much there. That’s evident from our record in recent years.
You are 442 runs short of 10,000 in first class cricket scored in 144 matches. Except in two seasons, you have been terrific for Mumbai. You ought to be disappointed not having earned the India cap?
Of course it’s disappointing that after scoring heavily I still never figured in the Indian team. But I would not like to look back and keep thinking about it. I have a whole new season to look forward to and would like to concentrate on that.
Would you say that the selectors should go by performances in first class cricket in India rather than a few matches against visiting teams. You did play against the West Indies, England ‘A’, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. You had your chances much before the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Laxman arrived on the scene?
Yes I have played and scored against all of them, in fact one of my better knocks was against the mighty Australians at the Brabourne Stadium in 2004 (56 runs). Performances should be recognised no matter where!
If you look back, Sachin has been the only Mumbai batsman who has truly stayed with the Indian team for 20 years. Kambli had a short stint and now Rohit Sharma who is yet to play a Test match and Jaffer have been in and out. Competitions and wickets (turf) have been the same in Mumbai and yet it’s a dismal record because there was a time there were six Mumbai batsmen in the Indian team?
Yes it’s shocking especially since we have been winning domestic tournaments every other year. However that one Mumbaikar (Sachin Tendulkar) in the Indian team is equal to six!
You have been a steady batsman right through your career, developed it by playing league cricket in England. Did you at any point of time think of changing your style?
It’s a myth in India that a steady player cannot adjust to the shorter format of the game. For this, you have to take a peek at my One-Day as well as 20-20 domestic record. I thrived on being a versatile player, never let a match situation go out of hand.
When did you think you lost your chance playing for India?
In 2006-07, when I captained Mumbai and West Zone to Ranji Trophy, One-Day and Deodhar Trophy championship wins and scored heavily. I thought I stood a chance. But when that did not happen, I realised I had to move on.
It’s bound to be completely different set up in Assam. But being a first class cricketer of 16 years, it should not be a problem to adjust?
Yes it will be different than Mumbai. But I am looking forward to playing good cricket and guiding youngsters there.
Would you say that the present generation should be happy that playing in first class cricket is a worthwhile occupation especially with increase in match fee per day?
It will certainly help budding cricketers to look at first class cricket seriously. Increase in match fee keeps players motivated and provides assistance to youngsters who are unemployed.
You have played for virtually all the teams, Mumbai, West Zone, Rest of India, India youth and ‘A’ teams. Do you think Duleep and Deodhar trophy are outdated?
No, I do not think so. They are still premier domestic tournaments. However performances in these matches have to be duly rewarded.