On the cusp of milestones, Abhishek Nayar and Vinay Kumar look back on career

Abhishek Nayar clips one through the on side Prakash Parsekar

Abhishek Nayar and Vinay Kumar, two domestic stalwarts who have played with and against each other, are on the cusp of milestones in the second round of the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy. While Nayar is set to play his 100th first-class match - and first for Puducherry - Vinay is gearing up for his 100th Ranji Trophy match. ESPNcricinfo spoke to both about their journeys, and what they thought of each other.

How special has this journey and landmark been?

Nayar: When I started my career, I never thought that far, or that I will play so long. It was all about contributing how much I could to Mumbai cricket and hopefully go on to play for India. So for me to be around having gone through all the injuries I've had over the years, battle it out - I've missed a couple of seasons, played a couple of half-seasons because of injury. And then to turn out as an allrounder and play 100 games, it's satisfying because I have been able to keep myself fit enough that I could deliver with bat and ball for so long.

The first 99 were easy - I was playing for Mumbai! This 100th game has taken me a year. I've had a couple of back issues since last year with my disc. When I was playing for Mumbai, you knew you were still playing for the Ranji Trophy championship. Now when I've come here to Puducherry, the reasons are slightly different. It's a different sense of motivation. There is a sense of happiness to see a lot of guys get their first cap, to make a debut while I play my 100th game.

Vinay: When I was in Davanagere, I did not think I will make it big. I came to Bangalore when I was 16 years old and Brijesh (Patel) sir's brother YB Patel and B Siddaramu, who were the selectors for Tumkur zone, encouraged me to come and play cricket in Bangalore. They were the ones who helped me get into Neptune Cricket Club in the fifth division, where I was the top wicket-taker and batting also I performed - I was initially an allrounder. We won the fifth division and we were immediately promoted to fourth division. Then soon, I got the chance to play for first division - Swastik (run by Brijesh Patel) - and Ranji happened. Playing in [rural area] and coming to Bangalore was a little difficult.

But I had the chance to share the dressing room with legends like Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, [Javagal] Srinath and [Sunil] Joshi. Arunkumar was my first captain and later became my coach. A lot of them were my bowling partners, in fact. I remember my first Ranji match in 2004 against Bengal in Kolkata. In the first innings, I got three wickets and second innings two wickets. I dismissed [Rohan] Gavaskar and [Sourav] Ganguly. I bowled from round the wicket to Gavaskar, he thought the ball will move away and just left the ball but it swung in and I got him lbw. Then I got Ganguly caught at first slip.

From there, leading Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy, playing for India and IPL, the journey has been special.

The proudest moment of your career?

Nayar: When I won my first Ranji Trophy championship. It was very satisfying also because when I came in the season, Mumbai were going to get relegated. We didn't get a point from three games and there were three games left. And from three we qualified and I played a big role in terms of performance, doing well in the semi-finals and then the final. I felt that, 'Yes I belong here. Yes, I can make a difference, I can do something special to win a Ranji Trophy'. It was more special because when I played that final there was Sachin, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar, Sourav Ganguly - there were a lot of big players in that match.

Vinay: Winning Ranji Trophy back-to-back. When we won Ranji Trophy in 2013-14, it was after 14 years the state won. We reached the final in 2009-10 but narrowly lost, and Mumbai won by just six runs . After that we kept coming to the quarter-finals and semis, but unfortunately we could not win until 2013-14. So, winning the trophy was the most memorable moment for me. We also won the Irani Trophy and the Vijay Hazare and repeating it next year was the icing on the cake. No team has done that.

The most memorable Ranji match you've been part of?

Nayar: One is the Ranji Trophy final where Rohit and I had a partnership against Uttar Pradesh in Hyderabad. We lost four early wickets, Sachin paaji got out in that game, Wasim [Jaffer] was out. Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar] and RP [Singh] had picked up wickets. Then Rohit and I had a partnership, and I got out on 99. Rohit scored a hundred in both innings. That was a very memorable game because we were under the pump against a very strong side, and then two youngsters in Rohit and me did really well and helped the team win.

The other game that stands out a lot is against Tamil Nadu, that we played two years ago in Lahli. I was coming back from injury, hadn't played cricket for six months. I remember there was some talk about whether or I should play in that game or not. In those conditions, I thought I played a very special knock. I scored only 45 not out, but for me that was critical. I've helped win a lot of games, but that was a game I really stood out. In terms of character, playing in such tough conditions, and coming back after such a long time. Being able to prove the faith that Chandu sir [Chandrakant Pandit] and Milind Rege put in me, was very satisfying.

Vinay: The semi-final against Mumbai in 2015. We were all out for 200-something [202] and then bowled Mumbai out for 44; I took six wickets in the first innings. That was a high point and against Tamil Nadu in the final, I took five wickets and also hit a hundred. I became the second player in Ranji (finals) and first captain to do that, which was also memorable.

Which domestic player has been your inspiration?

Nayar: When I first started off I was a huge fan of Wasim Jaffer. I used to love watching him play. But to be honest, I've never really been 'inspired' by someone, or looked at someone and said, 'Oh I want to be like him'. I've liked a lot of players, but I'd be lying if I say I was inspired by one.

Vinay: I was not following any one player and wanting to be like him, but I really liked Venkatesh Prasad. I did not quite play with him, I had replaced him. I am also a swing bowler like him and I can also bowl legcutters. So, because of the similarity I like him and he has been a legend for Karnataka.

Abhishek Nayar is set to play his 100th first-class match in this round. What do you hate to love about him?

Vinay: Abhishek is a great competitor and an allrounder. Whenever we came up against him, he performed against Karnataka and he was one of those players who took his wicket very seriously and he could change the game at any moment. Last IPL season, he was there with me at KKR and he is a good friend, and I wish him all the best. His service to Mumbai cricket is great and hope he does the same for Puducherry. He is helping young cricketers and contributing to the game.

Vinay Kumar is set to play his 100th Ranji Trophy match. What do you hate to love about him?

Nayar: Well I think his ability to get five wickets against Mumbai! If you go back and check his stats out about how well he's done, it's incredible. Although I have always done well against him - I'm not one of his five victims in Ranji Trophy! He stands out with bat and ball, he's been a fighter for Karnataka. He's someone who, as a leader, always stood up. He changed the mindset and how the team played.

One change that needs to be made in the Ranji Trophy?

Nayar: One thing I'd like to see is to have a five-day game for league matches too. Because now that we have pitches with some grass, we have places where spinners don't come into the game as much. Spinners generally come into play on the fourth or fifth day. In a four-day game, a lot of times it's a dead rubber by the time the last day comes. The fifth day would make it really exciting. I feel it also trains a cricketer to know what it is like when he goes and plays a Test match.