Amol Muzumdar: The unsung hero of Indian cricket
It was February 23, 1988.
Shardashram Vidyamandir were two down in the semifinals of the Lord Harris Shield when a child prodigy named Sachin Tendulkar walked on to the pitch to join his friend Vinod Kambli. The rest, as we know, is history. A record 664-run stand between those two caught the attention of the cricket fraternity. Two precocious batting stars were unearthed.
But what most people fail to remember is that a 13-year-old Amol Muzumdar had padded up after the fall of the first wicket, wondering all along if he'd ever get to bat as the two batsmen at the crease reduced the opposition bowler to tears. Young Muzumdar had spent the day warming up and practicing to remain focused, only to see the two bat and bat.
Sachin had always been considered immensely talented. His run-making for Shardashram Vidyamandir school was nothing short of extraordinary. People rushed to watch him play and it wasn't uncommon to hear his name in random conversations on the local Bombay trains. A few even predicted that he would become one of the all-time greats of the sport. Sachin made rapid strides after that record-breaking partnership and broke records people couldn't even dream of breaking at the time, ending as possibly the greatest the game of cricket has ever witnessed. While even the least observant of fans knew that Vinod Kambli failed to do justice to his potential, he did enjoy a decent career. He had a Test average of over 54, no mean feat, and managed to stay at the top level of cricket for quite a while.
Amol Muzumdar, forgotten talent
It is very safe to assume that a player who holds the record for the second most runs in the history of the Ranji Trophy was given a fair number of opportunities to represent India. However, that wasn't the case with Amol Muzumdar.
He made his first-class debut five years after the record partnership between Tendulkar and Kambli and enjoyed a terrific debut, cracking a mammoth 260. His magnificent debut was followed by a string of consistent performances. Muzumdar rose through the ranks at a decent pace. Soon, he found himself in the India U-19 side and was made the vice-captain. And then, he was drafted into the India A side, which included players like Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, and Sourav Ganguly.
His brilliant technique and temperament caught the attention of the Indian selectors. His claim to a slot in the Indian batting lineup was challenged by Dravid, another fine batsman. With players like Ravi Shastri and Navjot Sidhu at the business end of their careers, the national side were in dire need of batting replacements. That was when India A were gearing up to face England A in three unofficial Tests and three ODIs. And it also was during the same period that Muzumdar must've realized that luck wasn't on his side.
England A won the Test series 3-0 and crushed the India A side. Muzumdar had a forgettable series while Dravid displayed resolve and determination to produce decent performances. In the ODIs that followed, Muzumdar made a name for himself with some good knocks but ultimately lost the contest to Dravid.
The Mumbaikar did get another opportunity in the form of the 1995-96 Duleep Trophy. Laxman topped the batting charts with 395 runs followed by Dravid while Muzumdar finished fourth, ahead of Ganguly, who finished 6th. While Dravid and Laxman cemented their places in the national side, Ganguly's inconsistency kept him away from a national call-up.
Born in the wrong era
Muzumdar's luck deserted him again as Ganguly was chosen ahead of him to represent India even though the former had scored more runs in the Duleep Trophy. The Indian fans weren't complaining though as Ganguly cracked consecutive centuries in his first two matches. Meanwhile, Dravid and Laxman too continued to produce consistent performances alongside Sachin to carve out a formidable batting lineup, probably India's greatest ever.
Even later in his career, when Muzumdar produced brilliant performances in the domestic circuit, the strong Indian batting lineup ensured that he wasn't given a chance. He was simply born in the wrong era.
He had everything. Talent, temperament, determination, consistency, you name it. His career was neither marred by off-field incidents nor by injuries. Instead, it was luck that he lacked.
The talented Amol, at one point in his career hailed as the 'next Sachin', ended up as a batting powerhouse in the domestic circuit. He went on to pile up over 9000 runs in Ranji Trophy and won the competition a whopping eight times.
Amol Muzumdar, one of the finest batsmen India has ever produced, never played for the country and is now an unknown figure; an unsung hero.
Perhaps nothing sums up his career better than the fact that he remained padded up for two days while Tendulkar and Kambli made a record 664 run stand for their school. That happens to be the story of his life.