You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream
— Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963), Irish literary genius
Abhishek Nayar’s international career reads ODIs: 3, Innings: 1, Runs: 0, Overs: 3, Wickets: 0. He was effectively an India player for only 85 days in 2009. And then MS Dhoni made a crass — rather damaging — comment, saying he didn’t know if Nayar was a batsman or a bowler. The Mumbaikar, who hasn’t played for the country since, took that discourteous remark in his stride and got down to business. Injuries and surgeries became part and parcel of his life, but Nayar made sure the runs, and wickets, never dried up.
On Monday, for the first time in three seasons, he made a purposeful statement. “I have a bigger goal in mind this year, and I don’t want to relax at any point...I want to get back into the Indian team,” he declared. Dhoni, or the five wise men, may or may not take the 29-year-old’s desire seriously enough but, mind you, he has the numbers to back his point.
Every Tom, Dick and Harry doesn’t score 852 runs (and counting) in 14 innings at an average of 142. Prior to Monday, Nayar’s scores in the Ranji Trophy this season read 107*, 0, 105*, 64, 62, 73*, 51, 26*, 69*, 11, 28, 62*, 72*. On Day Two of the quarterfinal against Baroda, he cracked an unbeaten 122 to make that string appear more impressive.
Nayar, and the others, displayed Mumbai’s famed khadoos attitude in abundance as the hosts trampled Yusuf Pathan’s hapless bowlers under a mountain of runs on a typical Indian featherbed at the Wankhede. By stumps, Mumbai had amassed 524/6, an attritional 252 on the day.
As has been the case this season, Nayar held it all together for Mumbai after they lost overnight centurion Wasim Jaffer (150, 276 balls, 18x4, 3x6) 29 minutes into the day. The left-hander stitched crucial partnerships — 70 with nightwatchman Dhaval Kulkarni, 123 with Aditya Tare and an undefeated 45 with Ankeet Chavan — as Mumbai snuffed out any hopes Baroda may have harboured earlier in the day.
The highlight of the day was Nayar’s partnership with Tare. The pair, which joined hands just before lunch, batted the whole of the second session to frustrate Baroda.
If Tare delighted the 200-odd spectators with copybook cover drives, Nayar employed the reverse-sweep to good effect. It was his way of countering the leg-side field. Tare registered his third 50 of the season and by the time he was caught behind off Abhimanyu Chauhan for 64 (160 balls, 10x4), he had boosted his season’s tally to 692.
Nayar played a reverse-sweep to go to 98 before taking a couple of singles to drive home the point. He punched the air and took off his helmet before doing what Virat Kohli usually does after scoring a ton!