Mumbai v Maharashtra, Ranji Trophy quarterfinal, Mumbai January 7, 2014

Abdulla's silent redemption

After two poor seasons and repeated axings, Iqbal Abdulla has returned in style for Mumbai

Halfway into 2011, Iqbal Abdulla was feeling on top of the world. The left-arm spinner had been picked for the India A tour of England in 2010, and then won the BCCI's best allrounder award for the 2010-11 Ranji Trophy season, in which he scored nearly 400 runs, including a maiden first-class century, and took 27 wickets.

The trajectory of Abdulla's young career then took an abrupt turn for the worse. A torrid 2011-12 Ranji Trophy campaign, in which he took just 13 wickets in six matches, led to him being dropped from the Mumbai team. He struggled with being labeled a limited-overs specialist, and whispers of Abdulla having been led astray by IPL glitz started doing the rounds.

The following season did nothing to help Abdulla's cause. With Mumbai in a must-win position in their last league game against Madhya Pradesh, Abdulla dropped a regulation catch, which almost led to their exit from the tournament, that too in a televised match. Mumbai left him out of the knockouts and won the Ranji Trophy.

All this while Abdulla, who had moved to Mumbai from Azamgarh district in Uttar Pradesh to pursue his passion, remained silent. Even after he was dumped from Mumbai's squad despite returning match figures of 4 for 83 against Punjab, his only game of the season. Even after Mumbai selector Deepak Jadhav explained 42-year-old Pravin Tambe's inclusion by saying Abdulla "hasn't been bowling well". Abdulla just kept working on his game.

When he got his next opportunity, against Gujarat in Valsad, with Mumbai in another must-win situation in another final group match, Abdulla grabbed it. Two crucial thirties and 11 wickets won him Man of the Match and helped Mumbai sneak into the quarterfinals. Then, he opened up.

"I always knew my performance would speak for me," Abdulla said ahead of Mumbai's quarterfinal against Maharashtra. "A lot of things have been said. There have been many who criticised me and many who stood by me as well. I don't think I deserved to be dropped after the Punjab game, but I just kept on doing what I have always done. Thank god the rewards have followed."

When asked if he had analysed the downturn after the high of 2010-11, Abdulla said it wasn't the result of bad bowling. "It wasn't as if I was trying too many things," he said. "It was just that the wickets were so flat that (2011-12) season that no spinner could have an impact. Even Rameshbhai (Powar), who was the senior spinner, could hardly pick up wickets."

Did focusing on limited-overs cricket make him a defensive bowler? "Many people felt that way," Abdulla said. "Even Padmakar Shivalkar sir, who was the chief selector then, told me I was dropped because I was bowling too flat. But all I have been doing is backing myself all along. I have always bowled according to conditions and that's what has worked for me more often than not."

Flighting the ball in helpful conditions in Valsad, Abdulla displayed he had it in him to succeed by bowling classical left-arm spin. If he can continue in the same vein at the Wankhede Stadium over the next five days, he will have done a world of good not just for himself but also for Mumbai's quest for their 41st title.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on January 9, 2014, 1:00 GMT

    Where is Mohnish Parmar? He was India's big spin hope. Unfortunately he's been betrayed by the administration and left by the wayside

  • Al_Bundy1 on January 8, 2014, 13:38 GMT

    Agree with @Dilip Mistry - This kid should have been ahead of the average Piyush Chawla and over tested Ashvin and over hyped Jadeja. Why do our selectors keep selecting the same failed bowlers again and again, when there's no shortage of young talent in India?? Abdulla single handedly defeated Gujarat to put Mumbai in the quarter finals.

  • Rodc on January 8, 2014, 12:10 GMT

    But question remains where is harmeet singh?

  • on January 7, 2014, 18:58 GMT

    Dilip Mistry I do agree he has potential but he has stagnated last two years. Probably the knock in his head will help him get his act together It is always hard to be in Mumbai team when you are not a Rahane or Sharma-the line up keeps changing so much and most of the guy who come in do decent but hard to retain place in Mumbai line up

  • on January 7, 2014, 18:03 GMT

    The kid should have been ahead of the average Piyush Chawla and over tested Ashvin and over hyped Jadeja. Abdulla is better batting than the three mentioned, better bowling then those mentioned and fielding is as good as Jadeja. Good to see he hasnt given and stepped up to the plate.

  • on January 9, 2014, 1:00 GMT

    Where is Mohnish Parmar? He was India's big spin hope. Unfortunately he's been betrayed by the administration and left by the wayside

  • Al_Bundy1 on January 8, 2014, 13:38 GMT

    Agree with @Dilip Mistry - This kid should have been ahead of the average Piyush Chawla and over tested Ashvin and over hyped Jadeja. Why do our selectors keep selecting the same failed bowlers again and again, when there's no shortage of young talent in India?? Abdulla single handedly defeated Gujarat to put Mumbai in the quarter finals.

  • Rodc on January 8, 2014, 12:10 GMT

    But question remains where is harmeet singh?

  • on January 7, 2014, 18:58 GMT

    Dilip Mistry I do agree he has potential but he has stagnated last two years. Probably the knock in his head will help him get his act together It is always hard to be in Mumbai team when you are not a Rahane or Sharma-the line up keeps changing so much and most of the guy who come in do decent but hard to retain place in Mumbai line up

  • on January 7, 2014, 18:03 GMT

    The kid should have been ahead of the average Piyush Chawla and over tested Ashvin and over hyped Jadeja. Abdulla is better batting than the three mentioned, better bowling then those mentioned and fielding is as good as Jadeja. Good to see he hasnt given and stepped up to the plate.

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  • on January 7, 2014, 18:03 GMT

    The kid should have been ahead of the average Piyush Chawla and over tested Ashvin and over hyped Jadeja. Abdulla is better batting than the three mentioned, better bowling then those mentioned and fielding is as good as Jadeja. Good to see he hasnt given and stepped up to the plate.

  • on January 7, 2014, 18:58 GMT

    Dilip Mistry I do agree he has potential but he has stagnated last two years. Probably the knock in his head will help him get his act together It is always hard to be in Mumbai team when you are not a Rahane or Sharma-the line up keeps changing so much and most of the guy who come in do decent but hard to retain place in Mumbai line up

  • Rodc on January 8, 2014, 12:10 GMT

    But question remains where is harmeet singh?

  • Al_Bundy1 on January 8, 2014, 13:38 GMT

    Agree with @Dilip Mistry - This kid should have been ahead of the average Piyush Chawla and over tested Ashvin and over hyped Jadeja. Why do our selectors keep selecting the same failed bowlers again and again, when there's no shortage of young talent in India?? Abdulla single handedly defeated Gujarat to put Mumbai in the quarter finals.

  • on January 9, 2014, 1:00 GMT

    Where is Mohnish Parmar? He was India's big spin hope. Unfortunately he's been betrayed by the administration and left by the wayside