This wicket-keeper batsman had a controversial career

This wicket-keeper batsman had a controversial career

Nayan Mongia, 53, was the 200th player to play for Indian test cricket team, having made his bow on the big stage in the first of three-match series...

Nayan Mongia, 53, was the 200th player to play for Indian test cricket team, having made his bow on the big stage in the first of three-match series against Sri Lanka in 1993-94. Batting at number six in the first test at Lucknow, he scored a quick 44 off 55 balls at a strike rate of 80, the best of the innings in which there were two centurions – Navjot Sidhu and Sachin Tendulkar.

India went on to win handsomely in that Test after scoring a hefty 511 playing first and dismissing Sri Lanka twice for 211 and 174 subsequently. Nearly 30 years ago, India had ended up winning against its island neighbours in all the three matches, handing them over innings defeats in all of them.

However, it took 13 more matches for Nayan Mongia (in a total career of 44 matches from 1994-2001) to showcase his abilities as a wicket keeper batsman, a feat which was appreciated by veterans from the rival camp, which happened to be the Australian team. Australia had played a one-off test in 1996 against India at New Delhi and in that match, Mongia had a few milestones to his credit. He snapped up the Aussie skipper Steve Waugh for a duck behind the wicket in the first innings in which the visitors scored 182. The spin trio of Anil Kumble, Sunil Joshi and Aashish Kapoor captured eight wickets between them.

Opening the innings, Nayan Mongia scored a brilliant 152 on a difficult, slow wicket and the next best scorer was Sourav Ganguly, who scored 66. Indians were unstoppable as they scored 361. The Australian team responded with 234 in the second innings, with Mongia accounting for three dismissals including the dangerous Mark Waugh and the sticky counterpart of his, Ian Healy other than Glenn McGrath. With a target of 56 to chase, Mongia however floundered in the second innings, getting out for a duck and it was left to the combo of Mohammed Azharuddin and Sourav Ganguly to steer India home after the loss of three wickets.

The betting scandal which rocked Indian cricket at the turn of the millennium had seen Mongia's name as one of the accused in the scam, which affected his career along with Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar. Despite accusation charges levied by the then BCCI Secretary, Jaywant Lele that he was involved in it, he ultimately was absolved, which earned him a slot in that historic 2001 test match at Eden Gardens in which India came from behind to hand over a thrashing to Steve Waugh's Australian team.

Individually, Mongia did not have anything substantial to show in his final match, which was the hallmark of class for VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Harbhajan Singh. What is creditable is that Mongia's skills behind the wickets and his ability to score quick runs were valued by the team during the seven- year phase he spent with the team. In his final active phase of his cricketing career, he was appointed as a coach for the Thailand cricket team and also for the Malaysian cricket team.

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