Amol Muzumdar with his family. Photo Courtesy: Nishad Pai Vaidya
Amol Muzumdar with his family. Photo Courtesy: Nishad Pai Vaidya

Amol Muzumdar announced his retirement in a quiet gathering in the presence of friends, family and the media. Nishad Pai Vaidya caught up with the Mumbai stalwart during the event and spoke to him about his journey and what may lie ahead. There could be a possibility of him turning up for the Netherlands.

There are some stories that remain untold. The cricket world is privy to Ramakant Achrekar’s role in the making of Sachin Tendulkar — the coach taking the teenager from ground to ground on a scooter is perhaps one of the most popular stories in the Tendukar tale. But, there was this other Achrekar student, who also piled big runs at each stage. When he smashed 260 on Ranji Trophy debut, some felt he was destined to play for India. Had he donned that India cap, the world would have spoken of his father’s act of waking him up early and taking him for jogs to improve his fitness, or Babu Nadkarni’s role in giving him exposure to club cricket at an early age. However, Amol Muzumdar had no regrets when he called it a day from competitive cricket in a quiet gathering at the Khar Gymkhana in Mumbai.

Muzumdar’s parents, uncle, wife and daughter were in attendance as he walked into the room with a smile on his face. Though that India cap remained elusive, he said he was “satisfied” and had moved on. Muzumdar credited his family for standing by him. As the media settled down, he waved to his father to come and join him on the stage. Both wore a smile although it was a day he bid goodbye to the field of play. That picture summed up Muzumdar and his family — who took the disappointment in their stride and smiled at the positives in life. And why not! Muzumdar retires as one of the greats of Indian domestic cricket, one of the most prolific batsmen in the Ranji Trophy and a successful Mumbai cricketer.

The media kept asking Muzumdar various questions and he dealt with them quite candidly, even dishing out the odd witty phrase. The whole interaction gave us numerous insights into the man. He spoke about how his father motivated him to play cricket again when he thought of giving up after a horrendous season. There was also a question about missing out on the Indian Premier League (IPL), to which he again said he had no regrets. And, he also discussed the possibility of playing for the Netherlands once he qualifies for them the next year, having played club cricket in the country since 2010.

As the interaction came to an end and Muzumdar finished a few chats, this writer approached him. “Have you eaten?” he asked. “Come let us talk there,” he said. Away from the spotlight, this ceremony had a very nice personal touch to it all. He took a plate and got a sandwich or two for himself. “What would be your top five knocks?” he was asked. Muzumdar smiled, kept his plate aside and said, “The first that would come to my mind is the 260 on my debut. It was a cracking start to my career.”

Beaming through the past, Muzumdar said, “The second one I would say was one under trying circumstances and on a difficult wicket. It was at Indore in the 1996-97 Ranji Trophy semi-final against Madhya Pradesh against Hirwani. I ended up getting 132 and had a big partnership with Sanjay Manjrekar. We won the game.”

“The third one would be the 2003-04 final, where I got a hundred against Tamil Nadu, which was a very good knock. The fourth would be the 97 I got in the semi-final. In the second innings, Mumbai were zero for five so you can imagine what the wicket was. The wicket was fast, there were cracks on it. For the fifth, I would combine two hundreds. I got tons in each innings against Himachal Pradesh at Attar. The ball was really moving. In the second innings we [Andhra] were 18 for three. I think I went past Wasim’s record in that innings,” he said.

I got 58 off 60 balls against the Australians at Brabourne Stadium in 2004 and I would not forget the spell by Brett Lee. He was bowling quick and he wanted to get back into the Test side. His spot was taken by Michael Kasprowicz. He was bowling really fast.

Quite a good list one would say. He has an enviable record in the Ranji Trophy with quite a few big knocks in the finals. He also top-scored for Mumbai in the 1996-97 final against Delhi at Gwalior, which was the first Ranji game to be played under lights. “It was different I would say and it wasn’t easy. We were used to playing the red-ball coming on, watching it in the daylight. Suddenly, it was a day-night game and it went on for five days. It was a one-off experiment done by the board. We generally associate day-night cricket with the white ball for 50 balls. To play out a long and a lengthy innings was a different experience. It was a satisfying one as it came in a winning cause and in the final,” Muzumdar says.

With all those exploits in domestic cricket, Muzumdar was picked for India A a few times and came up against international bowlers. When asked about some of the best bowlers he faced in those games, he said, “I would say, top of the list, the spell I faced from Fannie de Villiers in 1996 when South Africans were here. He was shaping it, bowling it fast. I had never experienced something like that. De Villiers was fantastic. That is probably one of the best spells I faced. I got 58 off 60 balls against the Australians at Brabourne Stadium in 2004 and I would not forget the spell by Brett Lee. He was bowling quick and he wanted to get back into the Test side. His spot was taken by Michael Kasprowicz. He was bowling really fast.”

While the dream of playing for India didn’t materialise, there may be hope of him donning the Oranje. Muzumdar will qualify to play for the Netherlands the next year by virtue of playing club cricket in the country for four years. Mohammad Wasim, the former Pakistan batsman played for the Netherlands this year and one wouldn’t rule out Muzumdar’s chances. Though he is approaching 40, he looks as fit as any other player.

If he is picked for Netherlands, it won’t be a new setup for him. Earlier this year, Muzumdar was appointed their batting consultant for the World Cup qualifiers. Coaching isn’t the same as playing and Muzumdar found that out, “It is completely different as you are not in control. As a player you are in control of things. As a coach you stay outside. You have to come to terms with that. All you can do is give input at the right time, which is very crucial for a coach. There is no point saying you could have done this, that is not my way of looking at things. If he is going to do something, I might tell him. It was tough in New Zealand and was different for me as a batting consultant, but I enjoyed it.”

For now, Muzumdar will put his feet up and relax. The man has been at it for many years and deserves a break. There is of course that unfamiliar feeling when he doesn’t have to go and play or have to go for his fitness regime. What will he do the next day, “I’ll have to speak to you tomorrow again! It’s been different. All my life I have been playing cricket. Getting up in the morning, hitting the gym, doing my fitness. I have been a fitness freak. Somehow, in the last 10-15 days, I haven’t felt motivated enough to go and do something, Within a few things I will get into the field and start working towards something. But, tomorrow I will rest!”

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)