Rohit Sharma and Abhishek Nayar go back a long way Sharma,a die-hard car freak,has often had Nayar as his navigator during long drives around Mumbai. And such is their bonding that,when hes travelling abroad,Sharma leaves the keys to his luxury four-wheeler with Nayar.
On Monday,after a series of early mishaps left Mumbai struggling at 55/4,the two found themselves at the wheel with a bumpy ride ahead. And while they did live dangerously,their streaky,207-run partnership helped their team to a relatively safe score of 297/6 at stumps on Day One of the Ranji Trophy final against Uttar Pradesh. Sharma remained unbeaten on 113 while Nayar missed his ton by just one run.
UP skipper Mohammad Kaif will look back at the opening day with mixed feelings. He took the bold decision of asking Mumbais strong line-up,fresh from their 700 plus semi-final outing,to bat first. He then preferred rookie Bhuvneshwar Kumar over RP Singh when it came to handing out the new ball. And at 55/4,with Bhuvneshwar accounting for three batsmen,Kaif was Mr Midas.
But after the displaying his golden touch,he exposed his butter fingers,dropping Sharma twice at first slip before the batsman had reached 50.
Kaifs slip-ups were as surprising as the contrasting approach employed by Sharma and Nayar. Generally,Nayar is seen as the risk-taking strokemaker,while Sharmas aggression is more safe and controlled. Monday was different,as Nayar played solidly while Sharma was streaky.
Sharma was pleased that Nayar was at the other end during the crucial part of his innings. There was a lot of pressure,but we joked about things. We didnt talk about dropped catches or run-out chances and that helped us relax, he said.
We decided to try survive 10 overs at the start. We decided to curb our strokes and just hang around, Sharma said.
All through their young careers Sharma and Nayar have lent their shoulders to each other during the hard times. After every tour,Sharma checks with Nayar if he has noticed any flaw in his batting.
And Nayar talks about how Sharma constantly motivates him when he is down. I was down with dengue for most of this season. So I was a bit tense when I was making a comeback. But Sharma asked me to relax and not take too much pressure. That has really helped, he says.
This isnt the first time the two have played a crucial role in their teams revival. In the quarter-finals against Himachal in Ahmedabad,the pair put on a 100-run partnership,and they had dug their team out of a tight spot in the Challengers Trophy earlier this year as well.
With the second new ball moving around as well,whether theyve done enough remains to be seen.