April 11, 2000

A representation of the Bombay school of batsmanship

Sadiq Yusuf

One of the "nearly" men of Indian cricket Amol Muzumdar is a correct right-handed middle-order batsman, cast in the traditional mould. He is probably the best contemporary Bombay representation of the so-called "Bombay School of Batsmanship" - a tradition which emphasizes defensive technique, immense concentration, a willingness to bat for long periods, and a hatred for giving away one's wicket. Over the seasons, Muzumdar has sometimes exhibited a defensive bent, at other times an unwillingness for blazing strokeplay - but he has never demonstrated a lack of patience, the very foundation of the above mentioned Bombay School. Nor of what an English reporter once referred to as his "MCC-approved" defence.

A product of Shardashram school and coach Ramakant Achrekar, Muzumdar came up through the Bombay ranks - he starred for Bombay u-16, led Bombay to a national u-19 title and was a star batsman for the India u-19s. On making the Bombay side he burst into national view immediately, scoring 260 on first-class debut against Haryana in the knock-outs - an international first-class record for a debutant. He went on to average over a hundred his debut season, including top-scoring for Bombay in the Ranji final.

Promptly hailed as the next Tendulkar (when his game was patently unsuited to the comparison), his career faltered - partly due to heightened expectations. He was second only to Rahul Dravid in the middle-order in the England-A series (and ahead of Ganguly), but slowly slipped out of the selectorial vision. This process of vanishing from the selectorial radar has continued, despite remarkably consistent first-class performances - at the start of this year, after five seasons play, he had scored almost 2800 Ranji runs at a career average of over 73.

For most of his career, he has been the man Bombay has turned to in a crisis - the most reliable batsman in the side over the past few seasons (with Tendulkar missing due to national duty). Rated highly by his peers, the 25-year old Muzumdar has captained Bombay several times - including most of this season when senior man Dighe was away on national call in Australia. An off-season summer spent at the Australian Academy a year ago seems to have made him a more rounded batsman - a touch more aggressive, both in stroke-play and in running between the wickets, and sometimes even willing to loft the ball if he's been in long enough - a fact indicated by two one-day tons this season (one each in the Ranji One Day league and the Deodhar Trophy).

With his relative youth, one can expect Muzumdar to continue to serve Bombay cricket with distinction for several more years in the future.

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