After 50 First Class matches and nearly a decade long association with the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team, left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla has decided to move to Kerala for the forthcoming domestic season.
Leaving the reigning Ranji Trophy champions was the “hardest decision” as Abdulla put it. “Mumbai has given me a lot. I will continue playing club cricket here for DY Patil Sports Academy. I am happy to play for Kerala now. It is a big opportunity,” Azamgarh-born Abdulla told HT.
Abdulla did not look back after impressing in India’s U-19 World Cup victory in Malaysia in 2008. He was included in the India ‘A’ emerging players tour to Australia thereafter where he claimed the Man of the Series award.
In 2011 IPL, Abdulla’s 16 wickets in the tournament help him pip strong contenders like Ravindra Jadeja and Virat Kohli to win the Rising Star award. Abdulla also played a key role in Kolkata Knight Riders winning the IPL in 2012. Abdulla showed his batting ability when he scored a match-winning unbeaten 33 with AB de Villiers on the other side to help Royal Challengers Bangalore enter the IPL-9 final.
The 2010-11 Ranji Trophy season was by far the best for Abdulla where he won the Lala Amarnath award for the best all-rounder of the tournament for his 385 runs and 27 wickets from eight matches.
Abdulla has often been Mumbai’s saviour on a couple of occasions when the domestic giants found themselves in trouble. His innings of 30 and 38 and 11-wicket haul against Gujarat in the 2013-14 Ranji Trophy match at Valsad helped Mumbai sneak into the quarterfinal.
In the last Ranji Trophy season as well, Abdulla’s 39-run cameo with Shardul Thakur helped Mumbai beat Madhya Pradesh in Indore to seal the quarterfinal spot.
Despite bailing out Mumbai several times, Abdulla often felt unwanted in the team. “I have often performed in toughest situations for Mumbai. I got a feeling that I was wanted only when they needed me the most and not at other times. A player gets a booster when the captain and the coach back you. I was virtually on my own in the team. I had no one who would say ‘bowl your heart out and don’t worry about your mistakes’. There was always that insecurity,” said Abdulla.
“That support in the team was lacking. Kerala has welcomed me very warmly. My ultimate goal is to play for India and it is immaterial from which state I play my cricket from,” he added.
Getting a longer rope in the team was also one of the factors for Abdulla to take the plunge. The left-arm spinner played five matches and claimed 14 wickets for Mumbai in the last Ranji Trophy season. “That (getting to play more matches) was a major point while taking this decision,” he said.
Abdulla, who consulted former India pacer Abey Kuruvilla before switching over to Kerala, said he wasn’t enjoying his cricket in Mumbai. “When you get dropped despite performing, then people don’t have an answer to it. If I wasn’t performing, they (the selectors) could have tried other bowlers. But every time they had to call me back when Mumbai was in a tough situation. I wasn’t enjoying my cricket and didn’t get the feedback that I was looking for despite giving my 100 per cent every time,” said Abdulla.