Mongia stumped by selectors again

Written by: Suresh Parekh
Published: Tuesday, September 5, 2000, 20:15 [IST]
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The omission of Nayan Mongia from the list of probables selected by the five wise Indian selectors has come as a rude shock. The last couple of years have been very bad for Mongia, on and off the field. Everybody believes that he is India's best stumper, but for reasons unknown he misses the bus every time.

What is wrong with Nayan Mongia? This is the question that he himself asks often. Everything was hale and hearty for him before the last World Cup where he was chosen as the best catcher.

But then entered Sachin Tendulkar as captain and Kapil Dev as coach of Indian team. M S K Prasad was chosen as the new wicket-keeper for the home series against New Zealand.

Prasad also made it to Australia. But before he could make his mark, he sustained a foot injury and was out of action. All of a sudden Mongia's name was announced and within few days he was in the land of Bradman and Chappells.

But his stars were not in his favour. He became the most unwanted cricketer with only a few of his colleagues speaking to him. He celebrated his birthday (December 19) in his own room contradictory to the normal practice of celebrating in the manager's room when the team is on tour.

The team management did not want him and he had to come back after three weeks. This gave a chance to Sameer Dighe to claim India's cap. A sullied Mongia even decided to quit but decided against it as his friends and well wishers in Baroda and a few former cricketers like Aunshuman Gaekwad insisted that he should never give up hope.

And strange are the ways of Indian cricket. In the Test series against South African at home, Mongia made a comeback much to the chagrin of Prasad and Dighe.

He played the Mumbai Test with a fair amount of success, but injury prevented him from playing in the Bangalore Test which was Sachin's last as captain.

The new incumbent Saurav Ganguly obviously went for Saba Karim ahead of Mongia with the reason that Karim is a good bat than Mongia. It was Karim himself who told a couple of journalists in the Ahmedabad Test against New Zealand in 1999 that there was very little chance of him making it to the Indian team. He had even claimed that Mongia is the best keeper on home turf.

And there is no doubt about it. Mongia had proved it against Kumble and Co. Then where is the problem for his exclusion? Is he involved in the match-fixing scam? Has he got any connection with any bookies? Did he ever drop a catch or gift his wicket deliberately?

Mongia did appear before the CBI and presented his statement on the match-fixing case. There was a report that his house was raided. In fact Mongia has something different to say, "I am the highest single tax payer in Baroda."

"I am not dropped because of match-fixing as the BCCI officials claim. I did reasonably well in the Asia Cup too. I really don't know on what grounds they have omitted my name."

So is it the end of the road for Mongia? Well, it is too early to say that. The selection of three wicket-keepers and also the sidelining of Karim is a clear indication that they want new faces for the post.

The three names that have come up hold a lot of promise. Vijay Dahiya and Ajay Ratra, who played for India in the Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka, had good outings behind the wicket.

The real test for keepers is when India play teams like Australia in a home series. If the newcomer, be it Ratra or Dahiya or anybody, drop the catches of Mark Waugh or Steve Waugh or Ponting, then it will be the end of the road for them.

Then the skipper might opt for veterans like Mongia or Karim or even Prasad. But that is only a remote possibility and Mongia knows it very well.

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