Nayan Mongia: forlorn figure of Indian cricket

Written by: Suhrid Barua
Published: Monday, December 27, 2004, 13:40 [IST]
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Nayan Mongia has remained very much a forlorn figure of Indian cricket for the past few years. The manner in which the veteran gloveman was "forced" to take his final bow from all forms of cricket has been quite a bitter pill to swallow.

Stunningly, Nayan had sounded out the selectors that he would hang up his cricketing boots by the end of the season. Disregarding that, the Baroda selectors chose to wield the axe on him from the state side for the Ranji tie against Tamil Nadu.

The path Baroda selectors choose to tread was not only like making mockery of the cricketer but also marginalizing him, which is most unbecoming for someone, who had served the state for twenty years. Nayan should have been allowed to bid adieu with dignity; instead they (selectors) fired the guillotine which was big humiliation for Nayan.

Even as Nayan announced his retirement after coming to know that he was dropped from the state team for the Tamil Nadu tie, not many past or present cricketers or cricket functionaries came in support of him which isn't a surprise at all.

Barring former India Anshuman Gaekwad and former BCCI secretary Jayant Lele who were sympathetic towards Mongia's cause, there were not many willing to throw their weight behind Nayan. It's open secret that Nayan Mongia wasn't the ideal teammate one would want to have in the dressing room. Often being accused of being a self-centred cricketer who would put his personal interest above the team.

Of course, one would not like to agree entirely with what his critics would come up with. Make no mistake; as far as his cricketing abilities are concerned, he was a wicketkeeper par excellence.

Probably one of the best keepers to surface in India after Syed Kirmani, Mongia a solid batsman down the order. One still remembers the one-off India-Australia Test match at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground in New Delhi.

The team management wanted to play three spinners and so wanted Nayan Mongia to double up as an opener. Nayan didn't shirk away from the responsibility and took up the challenge gleefully and went on to score a brilliant 152 which paved the way for India putting up a competitive first innings total.

Many a times in the ODIs, Nayan was asked to bat at number three as a pinch-hitter and one game one remembers was the one at Sharjah in 1998-99 when Nayan sent in a pinch-hitter, played a breezy twenty-odd and lent a good support to Sachin Tendulkar who was going all guns blazing. These were some occasions when India would always remember Nayan Mongia for all the right reasons.

Talk of the 1994 ODI against West Indies when India were chasing a score of 257. Nayan was opening the innings with Manoj Prabhakar and the pair never tried to push things along and were merely going through their motions when the need of the hour was to up the tempo as the run rate kept soaring.

People keep talk about him having attitude problems. One failed to fathom what exactly were those. One vivdly remembers how he got Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin run out twice in a One-day international when India were chasing.

From the naked eye, with the captain holding fort in the closing stages of a run chase, one would expect Nayan Mongia to sacrifice his wicket for his skipper but twice he sold him a dummy which of course didn't win him many admirers in the dressing room.

Again during the India-Pakistan Chennai when India were coasting towards a win courtesy a brilliant ton from skipper Sachin Tendulkar, Nayan Mongia played a rash shot to get himself out triggering a late order collapse which enabled Pakistan a snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

It is said that his rapport with Sachin Tendulkar strained after this match. Though officially it was difficult to know how Mongia became eye-sore for most members in the Indian team; one did get the impression that Nayan's hopes of staging a comeback after beingdropped in 2001 was buried for good.

Even when Parthiv Patel was not faring well behind the stumps, the national selectors could have fallen back on Nayan Mongia since he had a wealth of experience behind him.

To his liking or disliking, he had state-mate Kiran More in the selection committee who went on to become the chief selector; it's possible that More could have lobbied hard for Nayan since pressing hard for players from the region the selectors belong to is not something new to Indian cricket.

Probably Nayan Mongia was fighting an enemy from within. Instead of expecting More to champion his case, the focus was centred on young Parthiv. More, a staunch backer of Parthiv tried all his manipulative skills to ensure Parthiv was in the side until he was forced to give in to huge blacklash over keeper's slipshod keeping.

Nayan Mongia as a cricketer did a lot of good things for Team India but sadly those "good things" are not being talked of now and instead his so called attitude problem and controversies relating to it is grabbing centrestage and setting tongues wagging the moment he decided to say good bye to cricket!

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