Billed the ‘w
orld championship of cricket’ by the hyper media, the short two Test series has much at stake both for India and South Africa and young Mithun could be a new ‘weapon’ in the Indian armoury.
Not since Javagal Srinath in November 2002 has a fast bowler from Karnataka played Test cricket for India.
Mithun, the strapping 20-year-old from Bangalore, had a sensational maiden first-class season that began with a hat trick on debut in November, and ended with a telling five-wicket haul in the Ranji Trophy final against Mumbai two weeks back. In the interim, too, he hustled and harried batsmen across the length and breadth of the country with sustained hostility on placid tracks, finishing the Ranji season with a country-high 47 wickets.
The whispers that first began when he destroyed Uttar Pradesh in Meerut with an 11-wicket haul quickly gathered pace as Mithun was discussed by players, officials and fans alike with a mixture of awe and fascination. Blessed with a strong body, a classical action and excellent work ethics, the boy who didn’t take up cricket seriously until three years back had quickly graduated into a man, working seasoned batsmen over with genuine pace and steepling bounce.
It wasn’t long before the national selectors took notice. Spoken of highly by respected players, Srikkanth-led selection panel observed him minutely, and came away impressed with what it saw.
Dodda Ganesh, former India player who has played an influential role in Mithun’s development, calls him the ‘second Srinath from Karnataka’, while Srinath himself has hailed him as a ‘good bowler on Indian tracks’, a massive compliment given how pacer-unfriendly pitches in India are.
No new face has emerged from the State in Test cricket since Vijay Bharadwaj made his debut in October 1999.