Which team can win after being 0 for 5? It can only be Mumbai, says Muzumdar. © Getty Images

Which team can win after being 0 for 5? It can only be Mumbai, says Muzumdar. © Getty Images

Amol Muzumdar made 11,167 runs in 171 first-class matches over 21 years. He remains the second highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy with 9202 runs, but having to compete with Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly for a middle-order slot in the national team meant he never wore the India cap. However, he had a storied career with Mumbai, amassing 8055 runs in 120 games and winning the title eight times with them, including as captain in 2006-07. He also played for five years as a professional cricketer for Assam and Andhra before calling time on his first-class career in 2014.

Memories of his debut
I remember everything, actually. It was way back in the 1993-94 season, a good 23 years ago, but I still remember it as if it happened yesterday.

When I was told by Ravi Shastri, the captain, that I was going to make the playing XI in the pre-quarterfinal against Haryana, I was over the moon but there were a lot of butterflies rattling around in my stomach. As soon as I went to the crease and hit the first couple of runs, everything settled down. I was in good form, I had scored a few runs for Mumbai Under-19s prior to my Ranji Trophy debut. So I carried on from there.
The debut happened because Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli and Sanjay Manjrekar, the three pillars of the Mumbai batting, had gone to New Zealand for a tour in 1993. I had one thing in the back of my mind: I didn’t want to go out of the playing XI once these guys come back. And I got 260 (highest score by a debutant in first-class cricket).

Favourite moment
That’s like asking which of my sons do I like the most! Out of the 17 years I was with Mumbai, we had won eight championships. It’s very tough to choose. It’s probably a toss-up between the 1993-94 season, where we won under Ravi Shastri and we were all youngsters and tasted blood of winning for the first time, and the 2006-07 season, when I was captain and we won against all odds.

Turning point of his career
The 1993-94 season. It just catapulted me into the higher league from junior cricket. When I made my debut, I knew for a fact that if I got in, I wouldn’t leave. That was very certain in my mind. I didn’t dream about it, but I knew that if I got to 20 or 30 runs, I’ll make it count.

Making yourself indispensable in the Mumbai team isn't easy, but Muzumdar achieved it with his first game when he made 260, still the highest score in first-class cricket by a debutant. © Getty Images

Making yourself indispensable in the Mumbai team isn’t easy, but Muzumdar achieved it with his first game when he made 260, still the highest score in first-class cricket by a debutant. © Getty Images

The most cherished win of his career
There are a couple. One game I won’t ever forget is Baroda v Mumbai at the Moti Bagh Stadium in Baroda. It was the 2006-07 Ranji Trophy semifinal and we were 0 for 5. I was leading the side at the time and we went on to win. I don’t think many teams will win after being 0 for 5 — it would only be Mumbai.

Another is Rajasthan v Mumbai in the 2007-08 season. We were playing at the Sports Complex in Jhalwar. I had declared in the second innings so we could go for an outright win. Off the last ball of the fourth day, all four results were possible: we could win it, we could lose it, we could draw it or there could be a tie. The last ball — Rajasthan needed two runs — and we won it. Mumbai went on to win that season.

The biggest characters (fun teammates, pranksters) he played with
Vinod Kambli, no doubt. He was the guy to hang around with in the dressing room. He made it so lively and fun. Sometimes, you need to unwind. You don’t want to carry those pressures on the field into the dressing room. Vinod Kambli made sure there were a lot of jokes. It wasn’t planned, it was impromptu. And he was the only one who could talk to Sachin freely.

The toughest conditions he has played in
There’s no doubt in my mind about this game. It was Mumbai v Tamil Nadu in the 1999-2000 Ranji Trophy semifinal. Sachin got a magnificent 233 and he won us the game. It was just an incredible game of cricket. We made 490 to go past Tamil Nadu’s first-innings score (485). I contributed 40-odd (47).

This game was very tough and there was tremendous pressure because it was the semifinal. We were chasing a mammoth score, almost 500, to get a first-innings lead. And it was played in mid-April at the Wankhede Stadium. The Wankhede was like a furnace in April and May. We were fielding on the first day and the second day. When I came back to the room, I felt that someone might actually die. It was so hot, it was so taxing. I felt that something might give in here if someone’s fitness levels were not up to the mark. It was that bad. And I remember gallons and gallons of watermelon juice were coming into the dressing room to keep us hydrated.

The toughest opponents
We had good battles with Tamil Nadu. We lost to them twice (in the 1995-96 quarterfinal and 2001-02 pre-quarterfinal). When we lost the match in Tirunelveli, I remember I almost cried. We had interesting battles with Karnataka too. In the 1990s, when Mumbai didn’t win it, Karnataka won it. The challenge with Tamil Nadu was always in the knockout stage; in the league stage, we were still okay.

Life after retirement
I’m in a good space at the moment. I’m absolutely happy with what has transpired over the past 21 years on the field. I have no regrets. I want to lead my life with a smile on my face. Now I want to see some of the youngsters perform. I get pleasure seeing youngsters performing in tough circumstances.

The Mumbai philosophy
In the Mumbai team, you perform or perish. It was as simple as that. There have been several hard taskmasters over the years, but that’s one of the reasons that we’re 41-time champions. The pressure is high. In all the Ranji Trophy previews, the media will mention Mumbai are the defending champions and the favourites. It goes without saying that we start as favourites in any year, any season.

I’ve learnt over the years with Mumbai that if you don’t perform or you don’t win the Ranji Trophy, it’s a failure. There is high expectation, something perhaps only the captain will understand. The rest of the players may feel ‘oh, it’s fine’, but when you’re a captain, the pressure mounts every time. Here, there isn’t even such a thing as runners-up. At least not in my book. You either win the trophy or you don’t.