Dogged Mongia deserves this chance

Written by: Suresh Parekh
Published: Thursday, February 24, 2000, 20:15 [IST]
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Rajkot: The selection of Nayan Mongia as the India wicket-keeper for the opening Test against Australia came as a pleasant surprise. Just a few months ago everybody thought that his career was almost over following the match-fixing enquiry.

But the moment he got cleared by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the possibility of a recall was in the offing. It was, however, widely speculated that Vijay Dahiya would be the first choice.

Mongia is perhaps one of the most unfortunate children of Indian cricket. He had to suffer a lot for the crime committed by the others. He is one of the most soft-spoken cricketers of the Indian team. He became the central figure in controversies including the match-fixing scam, which a few months ago hit the headlines regularly.

First it was the Kanpur One-day episode. When he and Prabhakar were at the crease against West Indies and they decided to play out the overs at the 'given instruction' and India lost the match, which it could have won. All hell cut loose on him. He was dropped from the Indian team but made a re-entry in the squad soon after.

Then, the famous run out episode with none other than the then skipper of the Indian team Mohammed Azharuddin. Again India was in a good position and just at that crucial moment Azhar drove the ball and left the crease, but Mongia did not respond.

India lost the match and again Mongia was the target. He was criticised by all and sundry. But even to this day Mongia feels that it was his responsibility to throw his wicket at the expense of his skipper who was going great guns.

But he feels that being experienced and a senior cricketer Azhar should have also realised when to run and when not to. There were a couple of other controversies with the match referees also.

The moment his name cropped up in the match-fixing investigation he became persona non-grata to some of the senior players. This was the period when Mongia was literally shattered, physically and mentally.

He was not chosen for home series against New Zealand in 1999 when M S K Prasad gloved the role. Mongia, however, was considered to be neater behind the stumps raising hopes of a recall to the Australian tour.

But it was not to be. He was nowhere in the Indian team and it was Prasad again. As it happened, Prasad got injured and Mongia was called to join the team in Australia. But this joyous news turned to be most nightmarish one too.

But his 21-day Christmas party tour was over when he was asked to return. Samir Dighe entered the scene at the age of 32 to play his first ever Test thanks to Sachin.

Mongia still remembers how badly he was treated on the 21 days tour. Almost all the players were not on speaking terms with him. So much so that he even celebrated his birthday (December 19) alone in his room. It is a custom that the players' birthdays are always celebrated in the manager's room when the team is abroad.

But Mongia took all this pain in his stride and decided not to speak a word. As if this was not enough he was again in the centre of controversy, this time more serious, the match-fixing scandal.

This gave Saurav Ganguly a chance to select Saba Karim to play his maiden Test after 11 years since he was chosen to the India team way back in 1989, when Vengsarkar took the side to West Indies.

Then it was Dahiya who also performed in the few Limited-Overs matches and Test series against Zimbabwe.

And when Mongia was finally and officially cleared from the entire match-fixing allegation it was believed that he had a chance again.

But, India's captain Saurav Ganguly made it clear that Dahiya will be playing the first Test against Australia. So when his name was announced for the first Test at Mumbai it came as a pleasant surprise.

Because it was same Saurav Ganguly, who insisted to the selectors that Karim should get the nod ahead of all. The selectors are indeed to be praised for the bold and positive step that they have taken while selecting the best available wicket-keeper in the country and surely Mongia deserves it too.

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