Former India ODI cricketer Abhishek Nayar at his residence in Powai. Pic/Suresh Karkera

mid-day's 39th anniversary: Mentor with a holistic view

By Noel D Souza | Mumbai

Updated: Jun 29, 2018, 09:52 IST

A Mumbai cricket stalwart has mastered the art of dealing with highs and lows, but he doesn't want to keep the trick a secret

Abhishek Nayar, 34
Cricketer and mentor

American football's greatest coach, Vince Lombardi, once said: "It is not whether you get knocked down, it,s whether you get up." Several latitudes and longitudes away, living on the 21st floor of a plush apartment overlooking Powai lake, Mumbai cricket stalwart Abhishek Nayar would relate to that inspiring quote.

Nayar's career (99 first-class matches for Mumbai) embodies Mumbai,s rich cricketing tradition. His exclusion from the Mumbai Ranji team caused a furore last year, but he was in the news again for mentoring Dinesh Karthik, India's last-ball hero in the Nidahas Trophy final in March. More recently, Kolkata Knight Riders roped in Nayar to be part of their support staff.

Nayar is quick to admit he wasn't into academics. In fact, he failed Class 7 while at Bombay Scottish because he was "more into football", and that hurt him deeply. "I did not leave my home for a month. I spent my time helping my grandmother cut vegetables and take care of the house. I was ashamed," he recalls.

He struggled with studies. Biology and chemistry, he compares to bouncers, although he enjoyed English. That was reassuring for his mother, Lekha, an English professor. He joined Shardashram Vidyamandir in Dadar that same year and his cricketing journey had begun. In 2005, he played his first Ranji Trophy game for Mumbai.

Nayar says that he would have been a footballer had it not been for his father. "When I was at Bombay Scottish, one of the coaches, who we used to call Shampoo, told my dad to send me to Kolkata since the football scene there was better, but dad said, no chance". Football's loss was cricket's gain.

During his time on the field, particularly in 2000, Nayar unearthed another talent — being a life coach to others — while transforming a rowdy friend into a docile character within six months. So what is so peculiar about Nayar,s mentoring? "I believe I can change people. Once I speak to a person, I try and figure out whether or not I can help him."

A lot of Nayar's mentoring skills are thanks to his upbringing. "The struggles we survived as a family has helped build my character. Failure won't faze me. We went from living in a small locality near Shivaji Park to a plush place. back then, we didn,t know if our next meal would arrive," he says.

In all probability, the fighter in him will want to be a contender for a Mumbai comeback. He won't need Lombardi's inspiration in this case.

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