Prithvi Shaw was just six years old when Abhishek Nayar had debuted for Mumbai in 2005. However, if there’s a reason the young sensation can hope to lift the Ranji Trophy at Holkar Cricket Stadium here on Saturday, it’s because of the veteran’s resilient effort throughout the three sessions on Day Four of the final.
He stitched two crucial 40-plus partnerships for the last two wickets, scoring a selfless 91 off 146 balls. When the boundaries dried up with almost everyone on the fence, he struck five towering sixes to not just extend Mumbai’s lead over Gujarat, but damage the opposition’s morale.
It has been a dream season for Nayar, who has now registered three consecutive 50-plus scores in the knockout stages of Ranji Trophy. With the ball, too, he has been impressive and had picked up three wickets in the first innings.
“When you have couple of poor seasons it kind of goes your way. I have worked really hard during the time when I struggled,” Nayar said after the match.
“I was batting with Adu (Aditya Tare) and the plan was to take it as far as we can and go big after tea. But we lost a couple of wickets and that was a bit of a setback. I knew that I had to take it deep. I have batted with the tail for the past two seasons now,” Nayar said.
“Once he (Vishal Dabholkar) got the confidence, we were discussing which bowler he was comfortable facing. I was giving him strike to only that bowler. It was a good communication between us. Having somebody fight it out with you gives one the motivation to take your team through.”
‘Not the A game’
He was, however, a bit disappointed with his team’s efforts and said the defending champions hadn’t yet put their best foot forward. “We could have batted smarter and faster. I think we have not brought out our A game in that aspect. Had we played smarter we could have got lot more than what we did in the end,” the veteran added.
“I was trying to understand what my areas were and I was very calm today. I was a bit brash in the first innings and that is normally not me.”
Though Gujarat have 10 wickets in hand and need 265 runs to clinch their maiden Ranji Trophy, Nayar was positive about the outcome of the game.
“It’s going to be a tough day,” he said. “It’s a game of cricket and anything can happen. Tomorrow is a fresh day and we are going to fight it out. In cricket things can go either ways but I know the boys are going to give it all and make everyone in Mumbai proud.”
“Every final I’ve played is a tough one. No quarter-final, semi-final or any game we’ve played is easy. I believe in respecting the game. I think it’s going to be tough final. Gujarat are playing good cricket, it’s just about who comes out and shows up and who is more prepared,” Nayar said.