Yes, I would be playing in Holland. I have re-signed for the club over there. I have retired from first-class cricket in India, all forms of domestic cricket.
Well, next year I would be eligible to play for Holland. The rule is that if you play five years continuously over there, you qualify to play for Holland, so I don't know. As far as shifting goes, I would be based in India.
At the moment, I have got an absolutely satisfying feeling. That's one of the things I realised this morning. And I think I would describe my long innings as a good, solid, satisfying one. No regrets at all. Every cricketer or every sportsman, I think, he craves that satisfying feeling. When you play a sport, you give your best, no matter which team you play for. It's been a satisfying journey all through my 21 years in first-class cricket.
Of course I dreamt of playing for the country. I would be lying if I say I didn't. But over the years, I came to terms with all those things. And I think, at the end of it, what I have realised is that as soon as you step onto the ground it doesn't matter which team you play for. Whether it's your club team or office team or first-class team or even international cricket. As long as you give your best the moment you step on to the ground irrespective of which team you represent.
I have come close many times but the closest I feel was in 1996-97, when I got four hundreds in Ranji Trophy and 97 in the Irani Trophy. I think that was the closest I felt that I would get into the Indian team. But after that also, I felt that I would play for India. Maybe in 2004 and 2005, but I think there was a generation shift in Indian cricket in 2003 and 2004.
I think it was in the 2005-06 season, when I got a lot of runs and I wasn't picked in any of the India A squads also. That was the time I felt it was a closed shop.
No, I didn't feel that way. I just thought there would be an opening somewhere. Because I was scoring. And I was always on a hope that this year I would make an entry. It never happened.
As a cricketer or as a batsman, you tend to evolve. In India, when a batsman scores 150 or 200, he is branded as a Test player. Or as a four-day player. But if you look at the record, you may see that I have always played according to the situation of the game because I was taught by [Ramakant] Achrekar sir to play to the situation. I have never allowed the game to go out of hand. In India, you tend to brand somebody. But I never thought of changing anything in my style of play.
It is a very satisfying feeling. Yes, I did not play for India but that is a part of my life I have kept aside and I have moved on. From 2003 onwards, I had a different mindset. That is mainly because of my family. They made me shift my focus. Yes, I only played domestic cricket, but I wanted to be the best over there.
"As soon as you step on to the ground it doesn't matter which team you play for. Whether it's your club team or office team or first-class team or even international cricket. As long as you give your best the moment you step on to the ground irrespective of which team you represent"
I didn't get that feeling that they had shut the door. I got that in 2003 but 1996-97 I was still in hope. I was scoring runs at that time and I felt there would definitely be one season where I would crack through the middle order. As I said, 2003-04 was probably the season where I got a lot of runs, about 800, did not still manage to break in. That's the time I felt they had shut the door.
After that I didn't really represent any India A or Board President's XI teams. But I got runs in international cricket also. One of my better knocks was against Australians at the CCI here in Mumbai in 2004-05, so I don't think that I was not looked at beyond that one particular game.
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. And they went on to play 125 Test matches without a break, so it was very tough to break in at that time. But I feel blessed to have played my cricket in that era. Definitely. I don't think that I lacked anything. It's just sheer coincidence that there were four players who played 125 Test matches. You have got to accept it and move ahead.
I will never forget that season, 2002-03. Because that season taught me a lot. I didn't get runs at all and that was a sort of a wake-up call for me. In the last eight-nine years, I had continuously got runs for Mumbai. I had never gone through a bad patch. I never thought I would not get runs. I went into a shell I feel. It was interesting how I got out of it. I almost gave up cricket in 2003. I had completely packed my bags. But I had signed a contract in England and my dad asked me to keep my promise. "If you wanna give up after that, give up, fine. But keep the commitment that you have made," he said. I personally didn't want to go. But my wife and my dad convinced me to go. And in England I found my way.
No, I did not think it was closure. I felt I could offer something more. I played 16 years for Mumbai and then went on to play five more years outside. Yes, it was a closed chapter for Mumbai, which was very close to my heart but I felt at that time that I could offer something more to the states I went to, Assam and Andhra. I think I contributed something over there because Assam qualified for the Elite for the first time ever in the first year that I went there. I knew I had something to offer to youngsters. It was difficult and different.
Of course there are. But it depends on the individual cricketer. I wanted to give something back. I knew I had something to offer in the last five years. A cricketer thinks that way. If he is looking at the monetary aspect, yes, there is some gain out of it nowadays in first-class cricket. But I was always of the opinion that I could offer something and give the teams in the Plate division a bit of a boost and change their mindset. That is the reason I went there.
Fitness, I dedicate it to my father. At a very young age, he instilled in me in the late 1970s the importance of fitness. He used to take me out for jogs early morning. When everyone was sleeping, I was out there jogging. Fitness is something I have grown up with and it has stayed with me right throughout. Now I realise when I am turning 40, how important it was in lengthening my career. If I wasn't fit enough, probably I would have closed the chapter five years ago when I shifted out of Mumbai.
The 2006-07 was one of the toughest seasons I have played for Mumbai for the sheer fact that we had lost three games in a row. I was the captain of the side and people were talking about relegation. And I still remember the game against Hyderabad. They were all talking about Mumbai getting relegated. In fact, I got a lot of calls and SMS-es from Mumbai stalwarts saying that in their lifetime, they don't want to see Mumbai getting relegated. So there was a lot of pressure. And somehow it changed. In the remaining league games, we had to have a win with a bonus point and it happened. Again in the semi-final, 0 for 5 and then...
That's a good question. See, I was disappointed. I will not shy away from saying I was disappointed. When IPL started, I was leading Mumbai, so I was disappointed not to have got a break. But again, that India moment had triggered a mindset shift. In the same way I handled that disappointment and I had moved on. I had a different set of ideas, different set of planning, different set of goals, and I went on to achieve them. Even if IPL didn't happen, that's fine. You can't look back. I am always of the opinion that you have to stay in the present but keep looking ahead. And that's probably one of the reasons why I have played for 21-22 years.
Yes, that is one of the options. I like talking about cricket, so you will definitely see me talking about cricket. I also like coaching. I have been doing my coaching in Holland. I have been the batting consultant for the Netherlands team for the past one year. So coaching and the media is an option.
Surely. Why not? I would definitely love to give something back. I am here because of cricket. I am here because the board gave me the opportunity to showcase my talent. These 25 years I have played cricket, right from junior to first-class cricket. And I would definitely be available to any cause of Indian cricket, whether it's Under-19, whether it's anything.
I really don't know what goes through their minds now. It's a different game, different era. When I grew up, I grew up watching Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohinder Amarnath, in the 1980s. We were always told that if you want to make any progress in your career, you need to make big runs. And big runs in Mumbai, they only meant double-hundreds. I remember when I was playing for Sungrace just before my first-class debut, one of the very senior players said to me, "If you want to make a mark in Mumbai cricket, hundreds won't matter. You need to get double-hundreds."
" It was a fantastic era to have played cricket in. You had four greats playing for India - Tendulkar, Dravid, Sourav and VVS. And they went on to play 125 Test matches without a break, so it was very tough to break in at that time. But I feel blessed to have played my cricket in that era"
I don't think there is any danger to it. Yes, the style has changed a bit. The youngsters like to hit the ball in the air. They like to play expansive strokes. But it's a sort of a cycle. Each generation has a different style to it. In the 1980s there was a different flair to batting, in the 1990s, it was different. Sachin Tendulkar brought strokeplay into batting. Of course there were other batsmen earlier who were great stroke-players but I am just saying that there was a shift in the generation. Each generation offers its novelty. This generation's novelty is IPL, I think. It's been seven years since the IPL has started. Youngsters see so many players playing so many unorthodox and different shots, so they are bound to emulate them. The game is surely changing and I feel that change is always good.
Ravi Shastri. His presence was enough. He was fantastic. He was a great leader of youngsters. He was very encouraging. The first year I came in, there were all youngsters - myself, Sairaj [Bahutule], Jatin [Paranjpe], Sameer [Dighe], Abey [Kuruvilla] was in his second-third year. And the way he [Shastri encouraged us was fantastic, was brilliant. His presence in the dressing room and on the ground was magnificent. Why I say that is because he inspired us so much. After 21 years, I still remember the team meeting before the Ranji Trophy final against Bengal at Wankhede. We were all charged up. At 8 o'clock the night when the meeting ended the day before the match, we were all charged up to play the game there and then. I still remember that meeting after 20 years so you can imagine the impact he had on all the youngsters.
You will have to ask my wife. Jokes apart, Sachin sent a lovely message today. He said that the longevity of your career shows your determination and your commitment towards the game.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo