While Mohnish Parmar was growing up in Gandhinagar, Muttiah Muralitharan was already a global star. And it was only natural that Parmar would idolize Muralitharan after deciding to become an off-spinner. The lanky youngster though took it a step further. He started aping the record-breaking Sri Lankan’s unique action, and before long earned renown in the local cricket circles for being India’s answer to Murali. But little did he know that he would end up paying a devastating price for his innocent idol-worship. A slump that would see him lost in complete oblivion from being touted as a future India prospect. Here, Parmar talks about his dramatic journey from being a potential world-beater an also-ran left in the lurch.
Life completely changes once you are called for ‘chucking’. When I started to play cricket, I tried copying the legendary spinner Muttiah Muralitharan’s action. Little did I know then that it would have some dire consequences. When I was playing junior cricket, whoever saw me would say ‘yeh toh India ka Murali hai’ and I would feel good about it. Soon I made it to the India under-19 side and travelled to play the Junior World Cup.
It was during that tournament that I was warned for bending my arm for the first-time by the umpires there. I came back home after the WC and was sent to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore. That was just the first of many visits that I would end up making to the NCA in the subsequent years.
I then went on to play the Ranji Trophy and did exceptionally well during one season. Not long after, I was picked in the India A squad for a tour to Australia, where I took four wickets against them. It was the happiest day of my career, especially when some experts reckoned that the India cap wasn’t too far away from my grasp. Even our India A coach Dav Whatmore was of that opinion. From there, commenced my slide.
My action was reported again in 2009 and I was back at the NCA. Over there, I was advised to change my action completely. I was shattered. It was the action I had bowled with from the first day of my career. Whatever I had achieved was with it. I had started aping Muralitharan because I believe that in this country you need to be a tad ‘different’ to get noticed.
I remember meeting Muralitharan on the sidelines of an IPL game in 2008. I took Cheteshwar Pujara along with me as I’m not fluent with English. Through Pujara, Muralitharan asked me to come visit him in Chennai where he would try to figure out where I was going wrong with my action. Somehow I couldn’t go there and thus missed my chance to train with the legend. Despite all that had happened, I wanted to keep bowling like Murali but I kept getting ‘called’ repeatedly in domestic cricket.
I was disturbed mentally. There were even some who suggested that I should shift to medium-pace bowling or become a pure batsman. There were rumours that my action would never get cleared because they didn’t want another Murali on the circuit. But I always told myself if Murali can get away with that action, why not me? But anyway I had to change my action and I did it. My effectiveness was gone, and wickets were no longer coming my way. It didn’t take long for my state team, Gujarat, to look for another spinner and drop me.
Things only got worse. Even the local umpires in my hometown now started casting doubts over my action.
I simply couldn’t fathom where I was going wrong and I started asking myself a lot of questions. After every delivery I would wonder, was my action right on that one? Did I use my wrist more than what is allowed? Is my arm bending?
Left in the lurch
It’s been two years now since I last played for Gujarat. Many people think I’ve given up on cricket. I keep traveling to Ahmedabad so that people are aware that I’m still around. I don’t have a job and my earning has stopped. Back when I was the India A star, there were agents lining up to sign me. Cricket gave me fame and money, but both have disappeared now. I was on a contract with Reliance Industries but they too haven’t renewed it. Even though I’m just 26, I’m finding it difficult to get a job. I know that the end of my cricket career might not be far but I’m giving it one last shot.
— as told to Devendra Pandey