CLR James saw cricket, to so many simply a sport and merely a game, as a manifestation of, and metaphor for, life itself.
If that is the case, cricketers (and, indeed, spectators) are themselves a depiction of society. It’s through speaking to them, understanding them, and hearing them breathe life into the game that we get a true cross-section of ‘society’.
No sport better represents differences – cultural, spiritual, simply human differences. The Ashes teaches us a history of Anglo-Australian relations. It lectures on war, Bodyline, colonialism, getting one over the homeland. Through West Indies-England Test matches, we’ve seen a history of the Caribbean archipelago; fighting against oppression, then against the master, then against the former master, then against condescension, and finally achieving being seen and respected as ‘human’. Australia-India Tests are an absolute depiction of cultural and societal differences in a five day crash course.
Through players, we see vagaries in character. Speaking to a South African, with the baggage of apartheid – and apartheid being replaced and edited, not removed – is the polar opposite of speaking to an Australian. Geographic proximity belies their very different histories, very real contrast in contexts.
Even down to personality. Brashness and gregariousness in one man is quiet confidence in another, and might be a softly-spoken, self-effacing modesty in a third.
Amol Muzumdar falls into that latter category.
Perhaps paradoxically, it takes a lack of arrogance in order to be capable of witnessing one’s own ego. The two, although seen as linked, are in many respects inverses. Mumzumdar is quietly spoken, never self-aggrandising, and yet – more than any other cricketer I’ve spoken to – able to comment on a sportsman’s innate ego.
Moreover, he pinpoints the driving factors to which any sportsman desires – reaching the top level, refusing to accept mediocrity. He articulates quite candidly the thought processes of varying points in his career.
“It was difficult in between [the start and end of my career]. I started off really well – five, six years I had no problems, I just wanted to score runs, and managed to do that. In between, I lost a little bit of motivation, to be honest with you, I didn’t feel it. Because I had aimed to play for India, and it wasn’t happening. And there was a generation shift, as I said, towards the 2000s. And it really pulled me down, and the motivation had gone off.
“But somehow I got it back, I don’t know what happened. Somehow I found the mojo of batting, of playing cricket on the ground again, and enjoying myself. That just kept me going – playing for Mumbai, I think it was, it was good enough for me. Yes, I didn’t make the Test arena or international cricket, but so be it. Not everyone gets it.
“I changed my thinking, and I think that kept me going. And towards the end of my career, the last four, five years, it was just my full will to perform, and just my determination to not let it go, and play for your pride, for your name. That kept me going.
“A little bit of ego comes into it, cricketers have egos. So I think, the last four, five years it was also a little bit of ego there: ‘I’ve played domestic cricket for fifteen, sixteen years, if I’m fit I’ll continue to play’.”
But while determination drove Muzumdar in the closing years of his career, it had been first taken to those heights by an absolute love for the game. It’s an easy throwaway line, ‘he loved his cricket’, but Muzumdar took it to a new level.
Getting involved in cricket in the first place, though, was down to an enjoyment for the game. His father’s lead got him into cricket, and then he simply played for “fun”. It all changed when he went to Ramakant Achrekar’s coaching academy – the academy that made Tendulkar and Kambli the cricketers they were.
“My father, he was very instrumental in making me as a cricketer. He played a good class of cricket in Mumbai, so obviously I was attracted towards the game. But I just played it for fun, earlier. When I shifted to a school, to Achrekar sir’s coaching clinic. That’s where it dawned upon me that this was a different ballgame over there, completely. Guys were really serious about it.
“Up till then, I was about 12, 13, I played for fun. I just batted and bowled a little bit, it was all fun, enjoyment. When I went to Achrekar sir’s it was all serious, it changed my life completely. I started taking cricket a little bit seriously.”
He took it more than seriously – he’s said in previous interviews that he doesn’t even recall ever celebrating birthdays, or anything like that. And it was the mentality Achrekar instilled in Muzumdar that intertwined him with the game.
“I think it [Achrekar’s coaching environment] has played a major role. Even today, at the age of 40, I was on the ground yesterday evening. I was just thinking ‘what am I doing?’ It’s just a drive, a drive of playing cricket, batting, it gives you an addiction. It developed at a very young age, around 12 or 13, and it was very serious. All my friends played that way, and I always believe that you are a product of your environment.”
It was that environment which gave Muzumdar his first experience of two of India’s greatest – Tendulkar and Kambli. It’s a famous tale, the 664-run partnership those two put on. Muzumdar was 13 at the time, but still remembers it well – as he might, as the next man in.
“It was an amazing time. As a kid it was a bit frustrating, because as a kid you always wanted to play cricket, you always wanted to go out there and do something – you didn’t want to sit in the tent. So I was a bit frustrated – well, I wouldn’t say frustrated, but a little anxious to start with, when they started playing their shots, and both got their fifties and hundreds. I was a bit anxious about when my batting would come up.
“And then that anxiousness turned into a little bit of frustration when they both got their double hundreds and it was a massive amount of time that I was just padded up. And then that frustration grew to enjoyment, and on the second or third day – I can’t remember exactly – I remember the feeling.
“I said ‘forget about frustration, you might as well enjoy this, because this is something unique that is unfolding in front of you – so you might as well enjoy it’. So I started enjoying that, and ultimately we didn’t know about it, but a day later it was announced that it was a world record partnership.”
It was with a small laugh that Muzumdar pointed out, “But that’s not my only claim to fame, yeah?”
It didn’t take long for Muzumdar to rise in the game – he played representative Under-19 cricket, which led to the honour of playing for India Under-19s. He believes the structures in place in Mumbai in those days were exceptional; at the talent spotting, player development, and match-play stages.
“I think it still is, and was, a fantastic infrastructure that we grew up in. Thanks to the Board of Control for Cricket in India, we got such great age-group tournaments, even just within Mumbai it was impossible to miss out on a good player, because there were so many talent spotters, there were so many Test cricketers who were involved at that time in the association.
“So many Test cricketers who were floating around the games as well, and they could spot talent. It spread by word of mouth as well, that this boy has got a bit of talent, have a look at him, or keep an eye on him, or something like that. It just didn’t falter – and the infrastructure, the tournament structure that was there was just phenomenal. It still is. If you look at our junior set-up, we have state teams, we have junior selection tournaments, which go on to build the state teams at under-15, under-17, under-19, so you graduated step by step. It was just a great time to play cricket in India, there was an abundance of talent, and it was just fantastic.”
But while Muzumdar might sing the praises of the structure that helped develop and grow him as a cricketer, his success can’t be put down to any external factor – it was sheer hard work and a determination to make it. It meant that, aged 19, he made his debut for Mumbai (then Bombay) in First Class cricket, and felt ready to take whatever came at him.
“To be very honest, in junior level cricket – starting from under-15s – I had got about 15 hundreds for Bombay under-15s, under-17s and under-19s. So having 15 hundreds to back it up, I was pretty confident when I went into my first, First Class game.”
He was also “nervous, at times”. Not so much because of the occasion, but because of how delayed it had been – “much awaited”, as he put it.
“I had expected it a year before, but I was sent to play under-19 cricket again. I was picked in the 15, but the coach, the manager and the captain thought that I wouldn’t make it into the XI so I may as well go and play under-19 games.”
Muzumdar kept a positive outlook to the situation, and didn’t let it hamper his game.
“I was a bit annoyed, but I knew that it was building up for a good First Class debut.”
Going into the match itself, he had the chance to play alongside his “hero”: Ravi Shastri.
“He had sent me a message – in those days there were no mobile phones – so he had sent me a message, via someone, and that message reached me where I was, that I would be batting at number four, so get prepared. So he gave me about a week’s notice that I was going to play in the XI, so I had that time to prepare myself, and feel that buzz and confidence growing in me.”
In that match, against a Haryana bowling attack filled with resolute, solid clubmen rather than outstanding showmen and flashy bowlers, Muzumdar took the step-up with aplomb. He certainly did justice to his pre-match confidence.
On the morning of the match, he was “quite confident”, and had the advantage of fitting into the side easily – “there was a new bunch of guys, who had progressed from under-19s into the Bombay side, all the older guys aside from Ravi Shastri and Sanjay Manjrekar had faded away. So there was a bunch of young guys, and I’d played cricket with them – club cricket, and also at the junior levels.”
He came out under a bit of pressure, with the score 47/2, but he dealt with it easily. It only became “nerve-wracking” when he got into the 90s, and that was where the cool head of Ravi Shastri came to the fore.
“I remember Ravi coming up to me, and he said ‘boy, just get this ten runs, graft this ten runs out, and I can assure you the next thirty will just flow like a river’. That sentence just stuck with me, till now. I grafted those ten runs, and gosh I was relieved when I got that hundred, on debut.”
He extended it out to 260 – a knock so superb, he never managed to eclipse it. It remained his highest First Class score, with the triple-century mark eluding him.
“There are not many regrets that I have in my career, but one thing is that I could never pass that 260, and the triple-hundred. That was possible, I had the temperament to do that. I don’t know how it didn’t happen, but it just didn’t happen.
“I was very happy getting a 200 on debut, because I remember at lunch time I was batting on 145, and I had to travel outside the stadium to call my dad up from an STD booth. [In the days when inter-city calls still required the use of an STD system]
“So I called my dad up, and he said ‘you know how hard it’s been for you to make your debut, now make this count. Do not get out.’ It was a message which, again, stuck with me throughout the innings – and helped me make a double hundred.”
That match saw Bombay win by an innings, and a couple of matches later they reached the Ranji Trophy final. Played at Wankehede Stadium – the first time Muzumdar played a First Class match at home – he took on a superb Bengal bowling attack, including the legendary Utpal Chatterjee.
Bengal, batting first, were dislodged for 193 courtesy of an excellent display from Manish Patel and Sairaj Bahutule. It was a telling comment on the standard of the wicket, and Muzumdar was presented with a challenging case when he came to the wicket at 41/3. When it quickly fell to four down, for just 58, it appeared that the match was wide open.
But Muzumdar, who shared in a partnership worth 76 with Ravi Shastri, belied his inexperience in making 78. With the next top score 35, and no others passing the twenties, the 63 run lead Bombay managed was down to Muzumdar’s efforts.
Despite the knock of a young lad called Sourav Ganguly in the Bengal second innings, the visitors never recovered. Bombay’s eventual eight-wicket victory was directly attributable to Muzumdar’s outstanding efforts.
“We were enjoying the success, we were all enjoying the success we had in the pre-quarters, quarters, semi-final and final. By then, coming into the final, Ravi had such a big impact on all of us. He had built a team, and it was if we were playing for years together. I remember a team meeting before the final of the 1993/94 Ranji Trophy, and Ravi just backed us up in such a way that at eight o’clock in the evening, the previous night, we were ready to play.
“If the bowler was bowling at 8.30 in the evening on that night, we were ready. We were absolutely ready. Bengal had a lot of senior players, a lot of domestic giants playing for them, facing them was never a pressure – I always felt confident that we were going to win this one, we haven’t come here to lose. That winning mentality was made in those three-four games that I played under Ravi.”
Bombay, or Mumbai, were incredibly successful at that time. A couple of seasons after Muzumdar debuted, Wasim Jaffer came into the side. It meant that a full-strength Bombay/Mumbai side had the names Jaffer, Muzumdar, Kambli, Manjrekar all in the same XI. They were certainly hoarding riches other states could only have dreamed of.
“It was a great time to play cricket in Mumbai, because the talent was just oozing. I would say Achrekar sir played a great role in this. Because I always feel that his cricket clinics were like going to school, and learning. You graduate from his stable, it stands and feels that you’re ready for the next level. I don’t know what he had, I don’t know what magic he had.
“I could name 15 guys who came out of Achrekar sir’s coaching clinic, and they were ready for the next step. They were ready for First Class cricket. The talent was oozing out, the infrastructure made it possible, there was fights for that place. I was very lucky to play for Mumbai for that long at that time. And looking back at it, in the dressing room, on my left there was Tendulkar, on my right there was Kambli, in front of me there was Manjrekar, there was Ravi Shastri.
“If you were a nerve-wreck, you had no chance. You had to be mentally extremely strong to survive in those conditions, and that probably made some cricketers into what they are, just that environment. The standards were set high by Tendulkar, and we were always told that 30s, 40s could get you the next game, a hundred would get you, probably, four or five games, but a double-hundred would get you a good seat for a season. So aim higher, and make sure you don’t leave that space. It was a terrific standard, which was set high. As a cricketer you would like to play at the best of your ability, and Kambli making a comeback, Manjrekar making a comeback, it was a star-studded Mumbai team. It was a phenomenal team.”
The team success was reflected in Muzumdar’s own achievements. His first four seasons of First Class cricket saw him rack up over 3000 runs at an average of over 62. It saw him gain representation for India A, but never quite get a Test berth.
In early 1995, India A hosted England A over three First Class matches, and three List A games. Muzumdar and Rahul Dravid were both in excellent form – while Dravid outscored all comers in the two-innings matches, Muzumdar scored runs for fun in the one-dayers. In fact, Muzumdar finished with a run-tally four runs superior to that of Dravid over those six games.
It was noticeable, however, that Muzumdar was making starts in that series without kicking on (he made four 50s, without breaching the century). While bowlers such as Dominic Cork, Glen Chapple, Ian Salisbury, Richard Stemp, Richard Johnson, and Min Patel would have troubled most, it could still have counted against Muzumdar’s name.
Does he believe it was his inability to convert those starts to big knocks in A games and tour matches that saw him miss out on a Test berth at that time?
“To be very honest, I ended up getting 50s against England A, but it was a tough series. It was a very tough series, it was very hard-fought. And if you ask Rahul Dravid, even now, I’m sure he’ll say it was a tough series.”
As Muzumdar points out, with the competitive nature of the series, and the attack England A had sent, it was always going to be hard to make large scores. Plus A tours weren’t what they are today – they were occasional, irregular affairs, meaning the players weren’t ever entirely sure what their role was.
“But look, if you wanted to judge only on hundreds, and if the selectors were waiting on that one big knock, I was playing those knocks in domestic cricket. So if they wanted to pick me, they would’ve picked me then. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had 125 besides my name, or 79 besides my name. If they wanted to pick me, they could have.”
Muzumdar’s career will, unfairly, only be remembered for the tag of ‘best to never play international cricket’. It’s unfair because it glosses over his remarkable cricketing career, where he held at one point the record for most Ranji Trophy runs in history (since overtaken by Wasim Jaffer).
Aside from his stellar run early on his career, there was one other time when Muzumdar should’ve – scratch that, must have – been seriously in contention. In the early 2000s – from the start of 2000 to the end of 2006 – Sourav Ganguly was in fairly poor form. He averaged 35 with the bat in this period, which was only that high courtesy of some Zimbabwe and Bangladesh-bashing.
His home average over that time was in the 20s. Despite that, no one ever got a shot ahead of him – neither Muzumdar, nor anyone else.
“He was the Indian team captain, and if he was averaging 30 – I didn’t know about it – but he didn’t have a great Test record. Of course, he had a phenomenal one-day record. But I always felt there was a chance for someone else to get there. But, it was just those four-five guys who went on to play 125 Test matches in a row – not even a break, not a single break. And in India, what happens is that if you don’t make it in those three, four, five years of your prime, then there is a next generation that comes through. There’s always a supply of players from that next generation. And there you go – there was a Yuvraj Singh, those guys.
“And also what happened was, slowly the trend changed. In the ‘80s, you made your Test debut, and then you made your one-day debut. In the ‘90s it followed to about ’97, ’98 that you made your Test debut first – so the selectors, the coaches, everybody looked for Test cricketers. And then they were drafted into the one-day side, and slowly settled down.
“What happened after 1998, was people made their one-day debut – they were specialist one-day cricketers, who made their debuts – and then, when they were successful in one-day cricket, people, coaches, selectors then knew they were good enough to play international cricket. So they were transferred from one-day cricket to Test cricket.
“Take an example, of Virender Sehwag, he came in ‘98/99, he made his one-day debut first, and then he slowly was drafted into the Test side. Same was the case with Yuvraj Singh. So the generation changed, and the thinking changed, and now it’s the Twenty20 and the IPL. It’s going the other way now.”
But while Muzumdar may never have reached the international stage, he became the senior domestic cricketer par excellence. He became Mumbai’s 32nd Ranji Trophy captain, leading the side in 16 Ranji matches. It meant he followed in his hero’s footsteps even further – helping guide and lead the youngsters, just as Shastri had helped Muzumdar as skipper all those years earlier. When he made the decision to switch allegiances, and went to Assam, and then Andhra, he became captain there too.
His off-field leadership skills were evident, but Muzumdar’s belief was that the on-field role was the most important for the captain to play.
“For me, organising on-field decisions and taking on-field decisions are more important for a captain. I’ve always maintained that the captain has the best instincts amongst all the players. He has the correct instincts – sometimes they can go right, sometimes they can go wrong, but they’re never biased. Because he always has the team’s interest at heart, the captain.
“This was how I played cricket. I’ve taken a few decisions on the ground as captain which we had not discussed in the dressing room at all, which we had not discussed in team meetings. You’ve got to go with the flow, you’ve got to make an instant decision – maybe to send someone up the order, because the situation demands it.
“I think I’ve been that kind of a captain, where I take on-field decisions instantly. And I stick by it, if I make a decision I stick by it, and I bear the consequences.”
Would be it fair to call him an instinctive captain?
“I did a few things instinctively. But for that you need a bit of organising also. It’s not just going on the field and taking decisions, it’s also a little bit of organising away from it – but not too much, I didn’t dwell too much on team meetings. There was a little bit of discussion, but I would say there were discussions, not meetings. You know, give him a short one or whatever, tactical things were discussed. But not for too long. Not in prolonged team meetings.”
While Muzumdar was the 32nd Mumbai captain, number 38 was Wasim Jaffer. The two players played a huge amount together for Mumbai – becoming the real spine of the team, and being quite frankly the two best batsmen on the Indian domestic circuit. They changed hands on record for most all-time runs in the Ranji Trophy several times, and while there was a bit of friendly competition over it, there was certainly never a rivalry or any animosity.
“He made his debut, and I saw it happening – it was my third or fourth season for Mumbai – I saw him grow up as a youngster, come into the side and develop into a very, very phenomenal cricketer for Bombay.
“I think there was always a mutual respect for each other, there’s no rivalry as such. I know how good a cricketer he is – you’ll have to ask him about the other way round – but I know about how good he is, and how many superb innings he’s played for Bombay. There was a respect for the amount of runs he got, and the manner in which he got them.
“And then I shifted from Mumbai, so I always followed on internet or in the newspaper, how did Wasim Jaffer get on? There was – I wouldn’t say rivalry, but I don’t know how to put it in words. There was a bit of competition, but it was always a friendly one – and there was never any animosity between us.”
It’s a particularly prevalent link, now that Jaffer has announced his move away from Mumbai, to look at when Muzumdar did move to Assam, and later Andhra. It came after an amazing career for his home state, one that will leave him among the throng of state legends. It’s an easy word to bandy about, but it’s tailor-made to call Muzumdar a ‘Mumbai great’.
Was it difficult to make the move?
“Oh, without a doubt. Without a doubt. In your career, you always get ups and downs, it sounds a cliché but it really happens. It happened with me that there were a lot of times when I was annoyed with the association, with the way it went about things. Everyone has their own perception, their own views on it, and in 2009 I thought it was the correct decision to move out. Sometimes in Mumbai, when your chances of playing for India are over, people start questioning – no matter how many runs you’ve scored, people start questioning your place, and they keep asking ‘does he have a chance to play for India?’
“In 2008/09 I didn’t have a chance to play for India, and I’d come to terms with that. And it was wise of me to just find extra bit [of motivation], and sometimes it’s good to make a change in your career, just to find that little bit of motivational factor to keep you going. I found it in Assam, I led them to Elite Group, so it was good year for me as well, as a captain.
“It was the first time in the history of Assam cricket that they came into the Elite Group of teams. So it was good, and it was my time to give it back, to make some of the players understand how it is to play competitive cricket.”
Muzumdar’s First Class career is certainly a record he can look back on with pride – and in one-day cricket, his figures are again very impressive. His average for Mumbai, which at 46.19 is quite exceptional, is diluted in his overall figures (3286 runs at a shade over 38) by some poor results for various specialty and combination sides.
Despite his abilities in limited overs cricket, however, he received very few opportunities in the very shortest format – finishing his career with just a smattering of Twenty20 games, 14 in total.
“If you see my record in one-day cricket, in 50-overs, it’s good. Initially I got double-hundreds and big hundreds, and…it always felt like people thought ‘oh, he’s tailor-made for the five day game.’ But my game was revolved around keeping the scoreboard moving, I was never a blocker. I’ve always been a busy player, and I like to play that kind of cricket. No matter what the situation is, I always like to keep myself busy and scoring runs.
“So one-day cricket was always my kind of cricket – I loved playing shots. When it came to Twenty20 cricket, with my first two or three years, I would say yes, I was trying to get to terms with the format first and foremost. Because I come from a generation where there was no Twenty20 cricket. Firstly, I was trying to get to terms with whether it’s good, people are trying to find whether this is a good format, or just an entertainment. So my first season went like that with Twenty20. Once I was not a part of IPL, then I lost a little bit of my excitement playing Twenty20 cricket – although it’s a very addictive game, I feel, it’s a young man’s game now. I always feel that if you are good enough to play the longer version of the game, you’re good enough to play any format – whether it’s Twenty20, or an eight-over game or a four-over game, because you’ve got the temperament.”
In 2014, not quite a year ago now, Muzumdar made the decision to retire from Indian cricket. After a career spanning more than 20 years, it goes without saying that it was – to use that most awful of clichés – the end of an era.
The cricketing world was very different – when Muzumdar entered the fray, the first World Cup to include coloured clothing had not long concluded. When he retired, Australia had gone through a rise, fall, and rise again. England had risen from dust, only to fall again. IPL cricket had taken the world by storm. The DRS system was being used in almost all international series.
At 39, Muzumdar had chosen the right time to go – he hadn’t stayed on too long, struggling away while spectators and even bowlers agonised over the batsman’s flailing steps and attempted strokes. Nor had he left too early, before he had a chance to give back to the game and to the youngsters coming into the domestic scene to replace him.
Muzumdar himself certainly has no regrets over the timing of his retirement.
“I honestly felt that it was time to move. I’d done a lot of travelling over the years, to every corner of India, and it wasn’t always the best possible travelling plans, it’s not easy to go to remote places. And I wasn’t playing for Mumbai, I was playing for Andhra. And sometimes those places where you go, if you’re 29 or 19, you’ll love them. If you’re 39, you start thinking about other things. So I think it got to me, and by the time I decided, I knew it was time. I just knew it was time for me to call it quits.”
How had the Indian game changed over that time? Muzumdar points out fielding and fitness as key areas where things have gone upwards, but also outlines the areas where things have declined
“It’s hard to say, but sometimes you feel that when you started it was different, and this and that. But to be very honest, I feel that the skill level was very high at the time when I started playing cricket. The skill, just the batting skill and bowling skill – not fast bowling, but spinners. Every state side had an extremely quality bowler that you had to face, and you had to prepare yourself to play against him.
“But I dare to say that that wasn’t the case when I retired, spinners were literally invisible. And I don’t know the reason why. And I’ve been saying it for the last four, five years now that there will be a time when there is a dearth of spinners in India, which will be sad. And we’ve got to wake up and do something about it, because I can’t find any spinners. And when I say spinner, it’s as in top-class spinner. In the ‘90s, when I started, every state – whether it was Bihar, whether it was Kerala, or whether it was Delhi, or Karnataka – every state side had a very, very good spinner. That was the difference, I feel.”
He sums it up as saying that the skill was higher in the ‘90s, but that the fielding and fitness is much better today. Does the lack of senior players in domestic cricket – the lack of the likes of the Ravi Shastris and Sanjay Manjrekars that Muzumdar had learned from – hinder the progress of players in the Ranji Trophy?
Muzumdar believes that while, yes, those players did help improve the overall standard of the game in those days, it’s no longer possible. With the sheer quantity of cricket the top-rate Indian players play, it’s no longer feasible to expect them to appear at the level below.
“Times have changed, and you’ve got to move with the times.”
These days, Muzumdar is a coach and commentator – the former role being based in the Netherlands, the latter home in India. His Dutch role is as batting coach for the national side, and it was an opportunity that came about because staying at home during the Monsoon season was, in effect, far too agonising.
“In 2011, I was thinking of going to England. I’ve always just kept going to England, because I’ve played First Class cricket and it starts in about October through to April in India, and in the rainy season it’s an off-season. And you can’t do much in India in the off-season, during the monsoons.
“And I tried to do that in 2010, and I got bored of watching the rain in India. And I said nah, this isn’t my cup of tea. I need to play cricket. So I decided to go to England again in 2011, and there was an offer from Steven Hirst, and he said ‘why don’t you try going to Holland?’
“And I’ve always tried to do things that would keep me going, and I said to myself and I asked my family and my wife and my daughter, ‘It’s a new place, I’ve never been there, I don’t know how the cricket is. Let’s try it out, make new friends, meet new people. Just have a bit of a change.’
“And when I came here, it was competitive cricket. It is quite competitive in top-class cricket. So it just kept me going, and I was offered a coach-cum-player role which was a little different from what I did until then – so I had to organise a lot of stuff as a coach, as well as play. And that kept me going – and here I am, in my fifth year here in the Netherlands. And I’m trying to do my best!”
His involvement with the national side is at one that has had mixed results – they missed out on qualification for the 2015 World Cup, were at one point in the World Cricket League Division Two, but beat England in the World T20 in 2014 and have been outstanding in the shortest format.
Muzumdar has big challenges in his role – the combination of social backgrounds in the team, with the likes of Michael Swart coming from Australia, captain Peter Borren from New Zealand, Roloef van der Merwe and many others come from South Africa, and other players have heritage from the subcontinental nations.
“It’s quite a challenge, but it’s also a challenge that you love…there are players from different backgrounds. Wesley Barresi comes from South Africa but also has an Italian connection, Stephan Myburgh comes from South Africa, there are Pakistanis, a couple of them. So it’s a challenge to work with them, and you’ve got to also understand where they come from, understand their psyche. But cricket is a common language.”
That common language, Muzumdar says, means it’s not as challenging as some might think. “It’s just about adjusting to different players,” he feels.
Muzumdar also praises the attention being given to the lower levels, and A-teams. He says that there is Dutch born-and-bred talent just as good as the likes of Swart, Barresi or Borren (who learned their cricket overseas), and that “it will take a little bit of time, but I’m sure they’re on the correct track. And when these guys come through, they will be ready for international cricket.”
He believes that there are some outstanding talents hanging around in the Netherlands set-up, and believes that while the World Cup qualifiers were a “dampener,” the side redeemed themselves with their T20 performances.
“Things have settled down now, it’s a settled team, I’m enjoying the role. Look, cricket is my life, and it has given me everything. So whenever there is a chance of passing it on, whatever knowledge I’ve gained from the sport, I offer it. It’s just a passion with which I’ve played, and I just want to pass it on.”
Nothing else said sums it up better – “cricket is my life”.
Looking forward, Muzumdar wants to retain his involvement in the game. His commentary stint, which he did for the entire domestic season after retirement is something that he has no plans of stopping soon. “I loved it, I enjoyed it,” Muzumdar says, but also mentions that it’s being on the ground where he truly feels at home.
“I would love to eventually do a specialist batting camp, that’s my aim. Just to open up an academy, where I can have just specialist batting skills – encountering different conditions, encountering different situations which a batsman goes through. That’s my aim, to set up that whole new set-up. How I would go about it, I don’t know – just as I didn’t know 25 years back that I would play cricket for so long. So I don’t know, but maybe, maybe I will do that.”
One thing’s for sure, however – India is, and always will be, home.
“Yeah, definitely home in India. That’s honestly where I feel the heart is, and I’d like to give it back to India, where I’ve learned my cricket…but as I said, cricket has got a common language. So whether it’s the Netherlands, or Mumbai, or deepest part of Kerala, it doesn’t matter. As long as I’m connected with cricket, I’m happy.”