Amol Muzumdar is the unsung hero for Mumbai cricket and the most unlucky man not to play for India in the era of fab-four. His prowess with the bat somehow forced one to think that him not playing for India was his loss or the loss of Indian team?
During Muzumdar’s period, many players made their debut in international cricket. Though many of those had a short stint at international level but yes they did play for India.
Muzumdar was one of the guys who batted for hours but never got the chance to play for even a minute for the Indian team, which is probably the only dream he could not fulfil in his 21-year-old domestic career.
Amol Muzumdar, on his Ranji Trophy, debut smashed 260 runs in an innings, a record that stands till now. He, in his 21-year old first class career, played for Mumbai, Assam and Andhra Pradesh. The Mumbaikar called it a day on his cricketing career in September 2014 before the start of Ranji season.
In an exclusive interview with Sportzwiki, he opened up about his historic Ranji Trophy debut and also his new role as a storyteller.
Here are few excerpts from the interview –
SW: You had a spectacular start to your Ranji career as an innings of 260 could be the best thing one can ask for. Your memories related to that innings?
Amol: It was a long time back in 1994, I remember it very clearly. It was the pre-quarter final game and I was making my debut after a long time. You will be surprised..when I am saying after a long time because, at 19, I think I was ready for the Ranji Trophy cricket a year back. So I waited for almost a year for making my debut. I used to come in the Mumbai side but some of the international players were there. Sachin, Sanjay Manjrekar, Ravi Shastri was there. So I couldn’t make it to the playing XI. That was the time when I felt that I was being pushed back to the under 19 side, so I think that helped me when I made my debut.
When I made my hundred, I knew I wanted to make it a big one so as even if the stars come back to the Mumbai team, I keep my place.
SW: What was the message from your father when you called him after your century?
Amol: (Smiles) There were no mobile phones then, I had to make an STD call. I was batting on 140 at the lunch time because overnight I was batting on 85. I went outside; took a taxi outside Nahar Singh stadium. I went into the town, made an STD call and he said don’t leave it. This was the only message he gave me. He was excited of course and was very happy that I got a hundred. But the only message was that you remember how much time you had to wait for this chance, so don’t leave it. So that was the only message I got and I continued.
SW: When was the time when you realised that you won’t be selected in the national team?
Amol: I came to know in 2006 that season. I led Mumbai to Ranji Trophy victory and then led West Zone to Duleep Trophy victory. I also led Mumbai to the one-day championship (Vijay Hazare Trophy). Literally, I won everything that year as a captain domestically. But I was still not picked for India A.
So, that gave me a message that they are looking beyond me. It was very hard to conceive the fact that I am not an India material anymore. But till then I was very hopeful that I will play for India one day. But I think in 2006 was when I realised that it’s not happening. It was very hard that I won’t be selected, no matter what I do. But I had to keep myself motivated, I had to keep myself away from the things that could enter your mind at that time and I just kept away from all those things.
I focused on cricket, I realised that I have left about 4-5 years of cricket left in me. So why not use it. These years won’t come back. My family played a big part, my wife; my parents played a big part. They said that you are not just there to play for India. You are there because you love the game. That’s why you play this game. No matter where you play.
SW: We have seen that when a player spends a total of 12-15 years playing for one state, he tends to switch from one state to another. Why does this happen? Any particular reason?
Amol: No, there is no particular reason. I played for Mumbai for 17 years, long 17 years I would say. It wasn’t easy as the Mumbai batting line up..it’s always you know there are lot of Test players around and when I played, there were lot of Test cricketers around me and those guys played cricket for India so to keep a place for 17 years without playing for India, when I look back, I think it was the biggest achievement.
SW: What was the message from your family and especially Ramakant Achrekar when you delivered them your decision to retire from the game?
Amol: When I announced my retirement, my wife was happy (smiles) because now I would rather stay with her time at home. Jokes apart but they were a little concerned. They knew that at the bottom of my heart I had the glass full. You know when I retired, my glass was full and I had nothing else to offer. I did play to the best of my ability, that one thing I can bout for and after 21 years in first-class cricket that was the correct time to retire when I kept my standards at a high level because when I retired, I had five first-class hundreds in that season in eight first-class matches…so I kept my standards high and I was satisfied.
SW: You have played for Netherlands and have also worked with the team as a batting coach. What difference do you find between a Test nation like India and an associate nation like Netherlands?
Amol: The infrastructure is quite good in Netherlands, it not massive, it’s pretty good. It’s basic stuff over there. They want to play cricket but there isn’t enough cricket. So that’s the thing with Netherlands, they really want to develop and play cricket at a very higher level. They have got that desire to play at a higher level but they don’t have that many funds which come from ICC but in India, you are not short of funds neither infrastructure. So that’s one thing that India can be really proud of that they have built that infrastructure and they have built a name around cricket. I enjoyed my time in Netherlands. I really had a glorious time and I made some class friends.
One thing, I can say about Netherlands is that they want to achieve something but they are short on funds.
SW: Coming to your commentary stint, what difference do you find as a keen fan and as an analyst, as a story-teller?
Amol: It’s very interesting. I like it. I like the fact that live commentary has got a little bit of pressure in it. I like the fact it gives me a feeling that I am playing. So you are not left outside the game. You are always in the game. While doing live commentary, we feel a little bit of pressure and I loved pressure while batting. So I am just continuing, what I left on the field. I love the commentary and I enjoy doing commentary. I have been covering domestic cricket for last two to two and a half years and it been a good ride so far.
SW: Any regrets from your playing days?
Amol: No. If you would have asked me this question 10 years back, I probably would have said yes but now when I look back, you know, I played in the correct era; people say that it was a different era. It was the era when fab five were playing but that era also taught me a lot of things. My ethics were correct. My preparations were fantastic and I gave hundred percent when I went on the ground. So it didn’t matter whether I played for my office team or my club team or my state or any international assignment that I got. It didn’t matter to me.
SW: What is your message to the upcoming generation of cricketers?
Amol: I would like to wish them all the very best. Play hard, play tough on the ground but leave stuff on the ground. When it happens on the ground, leave it over there. Don’t carry it outside the boundary rope. We do tend to carry it outside the boundary rope but as a youngster. Do play hard cricket out in the middle.
SW: To conclude Sir, what is the biggest lesson that the game of cricket and this journey taught you?
Amol: There were several lessons that I learnt from the game but I would say that it taught me a lot of discipline in my life and it taught me how to tackle different situations in life. It just taught me everything. It taught me the essence of life.