The thing about national sports headlines is, until a player makes the grade in representing the country, regardless of his domestic greatness, he remains an India aspirant.
I must admit having interviewed Amol Mazumdar a few times over, seldom was it for his heroics with the bat. Excepting when he became India’s highest scoring domestic run maker. On most other occasions it was about dissecting his Shardashram team mate Sachin Tendulkar’s many international landmarks or a word on their good times together.
Amol would once share how he and his gang got sev puris for Sachin, celebrating his birthday, as he couldn’t fetch one for himself from the street like the rest of us could. But not just Sachin?, cricket in India today, is big enough for most India cricketers even with modest records to get mobbed. Despite playing the country’s most popular game for 22 years, Amol could never experience such fan frenzy. All because he could never play for India.
|Calling it a day from all forms of domestic cricket, Amol philosophises, “I always lived on hope.” The closest he came to earning a India cap he thinks was in 1996 when he struck almost 4 back to back hundreds at the biggest possible domestic games. “I scored hundreds in Ranji quarters, semis, finals and a 97 in Irani Trophy. That’s when I think I came the closest. Also perhaps in 2004 but India was going through a generation shift then,” he recalls.|
Part of that generation shift were Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. Each of them were also in the running with him to break into the Indian middle order in mid 90’s ?and each of them made the grade.
The other fellow, his school mate, Sachin was by that time competing in a different space, with Brian Lara to be regarded the best batsman in the sport. Yet Amol does not blame destiny for this. “To be honest, I was plain lucky to have been born in that era. It was a fantastic era to have played cricket in. You had four greats playing for India – Tendulkar, Dravid, Sourav and VVS.”
Amol did get a break in a tour game against visiting South Africans in 1996 in which he could only mange 23 and 13. Laxman was also playing that game. Amol never got a trial game again. “They went on to play 125 Test matches each without a break, so it was very tough to break in at that time. You have got to accept it and move ahead,” he says.
Unlike today for a great part of Amol’s playing days, cricketers didn’t make as much money if they missed the bus of playing for India. He admits being ‘disappointed’ missing out on IPL action but unsurprisingly IPL talent scouts didn’t find merit in picking him for T20 action. ?By 2008 when IPL begun, he was far too deep into his career to change his batting style. Amol himself recalls the his record breaking 260 on debut for Mumbai had not a single lofted shot.
That debut innings with water tight technique playing for Mumbai in 1993-94 raised expectation that another Achrekar product could go on and achieve big things. Tendulkar and Kambli had already set the world on fire with their heroic starts to international careers and perhaps he would be the next one. Sadly much like that defining day in 1988 when Sachin and Kambli scored the unbeaten Harris Shield 664 runs record partnership and a padded up Mazumdar never got in, his India career never arrived. Even as he battled to fulfill his Indian dream, he played 16 straight years for Mumbai cricket winning many a Ranji trophies, with one as captain.
An Achrekar pupil cannot fail in thanking his guru and Amol did not fail in visiting the Dronacharya awardee on his retirement day. “I met him this morning and he didn’t say much. He smiled, so I knew he was happy. I just want to thank him. Without him, I would not have been the cricketer I am,” goes his thanks giving.
Retirement day interviews can get you into reflective mode but the man who calls his career ‘a solid satisfying one’ has now long come to terms with the disappointment of failure to taste international cricket. His school friend and superstar to the world, Sachin Tendulkar tweets, “One thing that #AmolMuzumdar always missed, the element of luck. Always dedicated and pursued his talent with passion and sincerity.”
He’s been serving the Netherlands cricket team as a batting consultant as he dabbles between coaching and media work. Maybe its time to make up for that missed luck in a new innings.