On February 13, 1994 — Amol Muzumdar broke the world-record for the highest individual score on First-Class debut as he finished the day unbeaten on 245 for Bombay against Haryana in a Ranji Trophy Pre-Quarter Final. Muzumdar went on to make 260 — a knock that helped Bombay win the game comfortably. In an exclusive conversation with CricketCountry’s Nishad Pai Vaidya, he reminisces on his remarkable feat on debut.
CricketCountry (CC): Can you tell us about the backdrop of your entry into the formidable Bombay (as it was known then) side?
Amol Muzumdar (AM): I was eying a spot in the Bombay side for a while then. I was 19-years old then and was playing for the Bombay Under-19s. However, I was in and around the senior team for two years, but could not break into the 15. I was the captain of the Bombay Under-19 and had done well in the Cooch Behar. In, fact I scored two hundreds in the final and few prior to that. I also scored a hundred against the Rest of India Under-19s in the MA Chidambaram Trophy. Thus, I was hopeful of breaking in. It was an anxious wait till I got my chance.
CC: When did you know that you would debut in the Pre-Quarter Final against Haryana? What was the pressure like entering the Bombay dressing room?
AM: I did not make it into the 15 for the group stages, but was there for the knock-outs. Sachin [Tendulkar], Vinod [Kambli] and Sanjay [Manjrekar] had gone to New Zealand with the Indian team. That allowed me to come into the middle-order. However, I didn’t know I would get a game immediately after entering the 15. Four or five days prior to the game, captain Ravi Shastri sent me a message that I was playing and batting at four. That gave a chance to prepare myself. Undoubtedly there was pressure. It is how you react to it is what matters. I wasn’t nervous as such, but was anxious to get into the thick of things. Interestingly, I had to make a choice between playing for India Under-19 — who were playing the Australians — and Bombay. I opted for the Ranji Trophy debut.
CC: The selectors gave you a choice?
AM: I had played for India Under-19 when I was 17 and it wasn’t new to me. Those days, after India Under-19, the gradual process was to get into your own state side. I was getting a chance for Bombay after a long wait and I opted for the Ranji Trophy.
CC: In the game against Haryana, Bombay batted first and you walked in at the score of 47 for two. Jatin Paranjpe was at the other end. Did he give you any words of advice?
AM: Jatin had got a hundred on his debut as well and was senior to me. We knew each other well through local cricket. I cannot recall what he said to me as I was anxious. The second ball I faced, I got off the mark with a push through the covers for three runs. That was my first scoring shot — stepping out to the off-spinner and punching it through the covers. It was a great relief to get off the mark and I got into the zone. The focus was to score runs.
CC: Can you talk us through the initial part of the innings? You ended the first day unbeaten on 83.
AM: Jatin was striking the ball very well and he got a good hundred. Shastri came in after he got out and I was trying to be assertive and taking every single possible. The scoring rate, etc. did not worry me and the thought was not to give your wicket away. That was how the initial part panned out.
CC: What was it like batting with Shastri for a youngster like you then? He too got a hundred in that game.
AM: It was dream come true. For any youngster who grew up in the 1980s, Ravi was a cult figure. He had won the Benson and Hedges Champion of Champions. To be a part of the side which was led by him was an honour. I used to visualise batting with the big players much before I made my senior debut. Ravi was very encouraging and was telling me to stay in the middle and play to my strengths.
CC: You got to your hundred early on Day Two. Sometimes youngsters can get carried away. What kept you going?
AM: As I approached the mark, I started getting nervous. I scored a hundred on my Bombay Under-15 debut and Under-19 as well. Being the Ranji Trophy, I was getting nervous. Ravi came up to me and said, “Just hang in there and get to your hundred. The 30-40 runs after that will flow like magic.” Those words have stayed with me right throughout my career. I don’t know whether he meant it strongly, but sometimes such words stick with you. Things panned out the way Ravi said. I chipped one to mid-wicket and got to my hundred. And, the next 30 runs just flowed.
CC: There were more milestones in store for you in that innings. However, the pressure wouldn’t have been the same as getting to that 100-run mark. Was it a lot easier to overhaul them?
AM: In my early days I have got big scores and was used to scoring huge hundreds. I was pretty confident that I wasn’t going to throw it away. There is an interesting story. At lunch on Day Two, I was way past my hundred. There were no mobiles then, [and] there was no telephone in the stadium. I wanted to call my dad and tell him I got a hundred. I asked Kadu bhai [Karsan Ghavri] if I could go out and come; he allowed me to go. I got a cab just outside the stadium and went to the town. I got to a phone booth and rang my dad. The first thing he told me was, “Come what may, do not throw this away as it has come after a wait. Even when the big guys come, you should stay in the team.” I returned to the stadium and made my mind that I wasn’t going to let it go.
CC: We often talk about the khadoos mindset of Mumbai cricketers. Weren’t there shades of that in your approach that day?
AM: When you look back, the khadoosness was there. I batted for more than two days and that doesn’t happen too often. That was a long time and I sometimes wonder how I managed to do it.
CC: After you crossed the double hundred, you were nearing the highest score on First-Class debut. Did you know that you had got the record once you achieved it?
AM: I reached my double by tea time on Day Two and there was a scorer who came in. During that break, I was in the zone and was quietly having my tea. The scorer came rushing in and said that 230 [by Gundappa Viswanath] is the Indian record etc. I told Kadu bhai that I didn’t want these guys to tell me anything as I wanted to concentrate on my batting. He asked the scorers not to say anything. Subconsciously, it always plays on your mind and when I got to 230, I knew it was an Indian record. The great part is that Clive Lloyd was there that day at the ground.
CC: Bombay plundered over 700 on the board and then bowled out Haryana twice in no time. You scored 260, which was a new record. How important was that as a morale booster for you with the season ahead?
AM: I did not know that I had broken the world record. Nobody had informed me about it. Only later when Bindra sir [IS Bindra] came to my room and told me that the previous record was 240 that I realised I had it. Actually, I was pleasantly shocked. When Mumbai won, there was this great satisfaction. It was a feeling that I belong there and that there is no reason why I cannot do it again. I did not play the quarter-final, but in the semis I scored a 55 and 101 not out. I then scored 78 in the first-innings of the final, which was the highest score of the innings. It was enjoyable to steadily contribute to the team’s success and play under Ravi’s captaincy. There were a few youngsters around such as myself, Sairaj [Bahutule], Jatin, Paras [Mhambrey], Sameer Dighe and Abey Kuruvilla and to win the Ranji Trophy in the first season was tremendous. It opened my eyes as I saw what team success is in my very first year.
CC: You spoke about the team-feeling and the Mumbai nature. When you look back at that experience and Mumbai cricket today, do you see any change in the mindset?
AM: There is bound to be a difference as you change with times. Winning the Ranji Trophy is everything in the Mumbai dressing room. Today, it is the same as the youngsters have done well. In the 2006-07 season, we had youngsters such as Abhishek Nayar and Rohit Sharma, who was making his debut. We won that year and I told them that it was great they won it so early in their careers. That tells you that winning the cup for Mumbai is everything. I don’t think there is too much of a difference in the attitude, but perhaps the styles have changed. But, I think the champion attitude is there as if you are winning every second year, not much would have changed.
CC: In later years, you scored a lot of runs, but an India call-up never came. At any point did you feel disheartened or you just wanted to go on and see what happens?
AM: If I say I did not feel discouraged, I would be lying. After getting so many runs and hundreds, you expect to get into something with India. It was beyond my thinking as to how I did not even come close to playing for India, forget about playing. That stayed with me for some time. In the first four or five years I didn’t feel it. But, later I came to terms with the fact that I was not getting a chance here. After all, these are human emotions.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)
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