Mumbai had a near-perfect match against Punjab last week. The batsmen made handsome contributions; bowlers fired on all cylinders and the fielding was flawless. However, there is a major concern for Mumbai which is yet to be addressed — Abhishek Nayar's poor form. He is known to be Mumbai's crisis man, but the all-rounder hasn't quite bailed out his team when required. Injuries have made things tougher for him.
Abhishek Nayar at the BKC ground yesterday. Pics/Suresh KK
Second-placed Mumbai take on Group 'B' table-toppers Tamil Nadu in a Ranji Trophy match at the Bandra Kurla Complex ground today. Although the season has just started, early signs haven't been encouraging. He scored 23 against Andhra and returned figures of 1-32 and 0-26 at Vizianagaram as Mumbai failed to take the first innings lead. He looked out of sorts against Punjab, scoring five and remaining wicketless in both innings on a juicy Wankhede Stadium track.
Last season too, Nayar scored just 190 runs in seven matches with one half-century and eight wickets as Mumbai bowed out in the semi-final. In 2013-14 season, he had managed 205 runs in six matches and claimed five wickets. The last time he performed to his best was in 2012-13 when Mumbai won the Ranji Trophy for the 40th time — Nayar scored 969 in 12 matches and grabbed 21 wickets.
Mumbai coach Chandrakant Pandit (right) with Harmeet Singh (left) and Akhil Herwadkar during a practice session at the Bandra Kurla Complex ground yesterday
On the eve of the clash yesterday, Nayar skipped the team's customary net practice session and preferred to work on his fitness. Skipper Aditya Tare wasn't too concerned over Nayar's poor show. "He has been suffering because of injuries. He is that sort of a guy who can take the field with one leg and one hand. He bowled in the (last season) semi-final with a head injury (against Karnataka). So, the team needs such characters," said Tare.
But isn't Nayar taking too long to come back to form? "It is a matter of time that he bounces back. He is a match-winner. He is like an elder brother to all the youngsters. He has a vast experience and he keeps sharing with everyone. He is a great team man and a terrific guy. He is the best player in the team and I am sure he will bounce back," Tare asserted.
With the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) deciding to start the Ranji Trophy a bit early this time, the hot and humid climate of Mumbai is becoming a challenge for the cricketers. Mumbai skipper Aditya Tare said playing in October heat is more difficult than playing in summer.
"October in Mumbai is tougher than summer. It is terrible. The heat is a huge factor that we need to look at," said Tare. Tamil Nadu skipper Abhinav Mukund felt Mumbai's heat was worse than Chennai. "Heat is a big factor. I think it is hotter than Chennai. We (players) need to stay well hydrated," said Mukund.