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Determined Mukesh Kumar drives home a dream

One of the most consistent and successful fast bowlers on the domestic circuit the last two seasons, Mukesh was right on the money from ball one
Last Updated : 02 September 2022, 06:51 IST
Last Updated : 02 September 2022, 06:51 IST
Last Updated : 02 September 2022, 06:51 IST
Last Updated : 02 September 2022, 06:51 IST

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Years of sweat, blood and toil finally bore its fruits on Thursday for Mukesh Kumar. The Bengal pacer, one of country’s feel-good cricketing stories in recent years, achieved the goal that he had dreamt of a few years back but thought of it as wishful thinking. The goal of earning an India debut. It materialised when he was handed one as India A took on New Zealand A in the four-day game here on Thursday.

“This is what every cricketer who plays the game dreams about,” said a proud Mukesh, adjusting his shiny new India A cap. “Many people will have stories (of struggle and hardship) like mine. Everyone has their own and different stories. But my aim is to play for India. Even today I just focused on my process and nothing else. My goal was to give my 100 per cent and I am glad that I was able to do so on the first day,” added the 28-year-old, who stole the opening day honours with a 3/34 effort.

Mukesh betrayed few nerves of a debutant against a strong New Zealand A side. One of the most consistent and successful fast bowlers on the domestic circuit the last two seasons, Mukesh was right on the money from ball one. With the gloomy weather ideal for his type of swing bowling, he kept troubling the New Zealand batters with his nagging lines and lengths.

With the coaches having instructed him to bang a few balls short given the Kiwis are good at playing swing bowling, Mukesh earned his first scalp in Chad Bowes through a short-pitched delivery. Mostly an out-swing bowler, he showed he’s added weapons to his armoury by darting balls in at pace.

His next two wickets were through that mode, trapping Robert O Donnell and Cam Fletcher leg-before.

The development of Mukesh into such a solid package is largely because of the Vision 2020 programme put in place by then Cricket Association of Bengal joint secretary Sourav Ganguly a decade ago.

Not willing to become a taxi driver on his father’s orders after arriving in Kolkata from Gopalganj — a village in Bihar — Mukesh found refuge in cricket although he had played little of it.

He just wandered off to Victoria ground, a cricketing hub in Kolkata like the famous Shivaji Park in Mumbai, and kept playing for various teams there to escape being behind the wheels. With very little money in his wallet, he could afford neither food nor cricketing gears to give wings to his new dream. But, loaded with ambition and courage, he went about his pursuit of becoming a bowler, vigorously just bowling for anyone who summoned him.

The persistence finally paid off when Virender Singh, one of the coaches in Victoria groud, liked what he saw of him and offered him a chance to play for his club in second division in 2013. He still couldn’t make a living but that was the hope he needed.

Mukesh then turned up for the Vision 2020 trials in 2013 when he caught then Bengal bowling coach Ranadeb Bose’s attention.

Pakistani great Waqar Younis, who was hired by Ganguly to oversee the pace section of the programme, initially declined Bose’ gesture to admit Mukesh. But being good friends with Bose, Younis agreed to mentor Mukesh and within two years (2015-16) the speedster went to make his Ranji Trophy debut for the State.

Since then, Mukesh’s trajectory has only gone up. In the 2019-20 season, where Bengal finished runners-up, Mukesh bagged 32 wickets in 10 games and last season he bagged 20 in five matches. The India A cap was a reward for his fine shows over the years. He has now set his sight on the upcoming domestic season and further climb the ladder of success.

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Published 02 September 2022, 05:22 IST

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