Abhishek Nayar's allround performance was credited by Aditya Tare as Mumbai kept the final against Gujarat alive. © Wisden India

Abhishek Nayar’s allround performance was credited by Aditya Tare as Mumbai kept the final against Gujarat alive. © Wisden India

“He is phenomenal. I used to think no one is indispensable but in terms of Abhishek Nayar, I dare not say that. He is incredible, his character is outstanding. The way he works hard for the team is phenomenal. I am so proud to have him in my squad, he is a terrific guy to have in the team. He bowls his heart out, he bats his heart out for the team. Absolutely genius fellow.”

So said Aditya Tare of his star allrounder, who has single-handedly ensured that Gujarat don’t run away with the 83rd edition of the Ranji trophy final in Indore. After a measured 35 that piloted Mumbai to 228 on the first day at the Holkar Stadium, Nayar sent down 27 probing overs to finish with 3 for 91 on Wednesday’s (January 11) second day, making sure that Gujarat had lost six wickets while making 291 at the close.

The Mumbai captain was insistent that even though Gujarat held a 63-run lead already, the match was anybody’s to win. “I think it is still open. Three more days to go and obviously I thought we did play pretty well in the first session and the last session. We leaked up a few more runs in the second session but otherwise, had we taken the opportunities that we got, it would have been a different story. But nevertheless, it happens in the game of cricket and we have to accept it. I feel the game is pretty open and we will bounce back, I am pretty sure about it.”

The missed opportunities Tare referred to were dropped catches, the most expensive being when Shreyas Iyer shelled Manprit Juneja on 15 and he went on to make 77, along with putting on 120 for the fourth wicket with Parthiv Patel. To make matters worse, Shardul Thakur had Parthiv caught behind with a peach for 20, but it was an illegal delivery as he had overstepped.

“There were opportunities that we had but unfortunately we didn’t convert them. Otherwise it would have been a different story,” reiterated Tare. “And we bowled a no-ball where we got a wicket, an important one, but you have to accept it, it is going to happen.”

Tare termed the Holkar stadium surface a very good one, and defended his decision to go in with three seamers and two left-arm spinners. “The wicket’s got decent bounce and the ball moves because it is quite cold, especially in the morning and in the evening. Suddenly the ball started moving because the temperature dropped in the evening. It was pretty good to bat on in the second session probably because it has got good bounce. I think it is a very nice pitch.

“We hope that on the fifth day, the ball starts spinning. At the end of the day, there can be turn, I feel there will be turn and bounce on the fifth day. It is a red-soil surface and taking that into consideration, we went with two left-arm spinners. There was help for the seamers throughout the day and I wanted them to bowl before the target (lead) was achieved or when they were getting runs. It was important that they get to bowl a lot of overs, that’s what the plan was.”