Delhi Capitals signed Bengal pacer Mukesh Kumar for Rs 5.5 crore. Mukesh had entered the auction at a base price of Rs 20 lakh.
CSK opened the bidding and was joined by DC. Mukesh’s price quickly shot past Rs 1 crore as PBKS joined the race. CSK eventually dropped out but DC persisted and eventually signed Mukesh.
In October, Mukesh earned maiden India call-up for South Africa ODIs.
‘In love with cricket’
In 2012, Mukesh’s father wanted him to “take up a job and help the family”. But the son was in love with the game. “I loved playing cricket. I loved to work hard. I didn’t even know what an inswing or an outswing is. All I knew was to bowl fast. That’s how I played in the second division, picked six wickets in the first match,” he recalls.
He was elevated to the first division of the CAB League but was far from focused. For most of the next two years, he was bitten by tennis-ball cricket - a lucrative proposition - and the T20 frenzy. “I would play these prize-money tournaments in Kolkata, Patna, even Delhi at times. Then came the Vision 2020 trials and it changed my life forever.”
The Cricket Association of Bengal launched a talent hunt cum grooming programme, with V.V.S. Laxman, Waqar Younis and Muttiah Muralitharan at the helm. Bose sensed his talent and convinced Waqar to include him.
The next season, he made his Bengal debut, having overcome malnutrition issues and learning the art of cricket. “I am indebted to Rano sir and Joy sir. They taught me to be disciplined and patient,” he says.
He also acknowledges “Lal sir” - former India opener and Bengal head coach Arun Lal - for believing in him and giving him every match of the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy, which proved to be a game-changer. Until then, he had not got a consistent run in the state side.
From the kind of background he has had, any bowler would be overwhelmed with being included in a State team. Mukesh’s case was no different. In fact, he remembers continuously laughing at it, sitting in a corner in the Bengal dressing room.
“When I first entered the Bengal dressing room, it was full of India players. Pragyan Ojha, Mohammed Shami, Ashok Dinda, Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha. Five players,” he said, with a sheepish smile.
“I would keep thinking about where I used to play till recently. There’s no ground in my village. I used to play two seasons, one after the wheat harvest and one after rice. I used to level the field to play with my own hands. And I used to think that I have come from there and kept laughing about it sitting in a corner.”
Once Tiwary asked him: why do you laugh whenever you see me? “So I told him the same and told me I still cannot believe I am sharing the dressing room with you. He told me: you have worked hard for it and you have earned it.”
On Friday, everyone in the Indian cricket fraternity and Mukesh’s social circle would be repeating what Tiwary had told Mukesh six years ago.
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