Two years ago, Mukesh Kumar took 32 wickets while bowling Bengal in the Ranji Trophy final, where they lost to Saurashtra. Earlier this month, he captained India A by taking 6/40 in India A’s innings and 123-run win against Bangladesh.
A place in the ODI team against South Africa at home, followed by tours of Bangladesh and New Zealand – 2022 was already looking good for him. Kumar is 29 years old. He had come this far without playing in the IPL (even though he did appear in a few trials) and so it was more or less assumed that he might come. But life finds strange ways to make fairy tales out of run-of-the-mill stories. 5.5 crore richer after winning Delhi Capitals’ IPL auction bid on Friday, Kumar is no different.
The story begins twice, once in Kakarkund village in Bihar’s Gopalganj district, then in 2014 during a trial run of the Vision 2020 program at Eden Gardens. While his father was trying his luck with a taxi business in Kolkata, Kumar was content to stay there. his village, playing tennis ball matches and dreaming of making it big. But as is the case with most families in rural India, Kumar’s father Kashinath wanted him to join the army. He agreed, even appeared for the exam twice, but did not pass it. When it seemed that his life was going nowhere, Kumar’s father finally asked him to come to Kolkata in 2012 and look for a job.
Once in Kolkata, Kumar was inundated with offers to play tennis ball cricket, but when he joined Bani Niketan—a second division CAB League club—he finally understood how different professional cricket really was. Kumar could still barely afford his equipment, but Maidan clubs in Kolkata always find a way to retain fighters among the scores coming in to try their luck, be it Mohammed Shami in 2008 or in this case Youth. Soon he got an offer from the first division league and slowly Kumar started making a mark for himself.
It was at his club that Kumar first heard about the Cricket Association of Bengal’s Vision 2020 programme, where former India fast bowler Randev Bose was undergoing trials under the supervision of VVS Laxman, Waqar Younis and Muttiah Muralitharan. Kumar did not get many balls, but it is said that his yorker swung so much that Bose had to be convinced of his talent. He was selected for the programme, put on a special diet and a year later, Kumar made his domestic debut in Rohtak, where he joined the bowlers (joining Ashok Dinda, Veer Pratap Singh and Pragyan Ojha) as Chosen, who took 4/53.
Since then, Kumar began to make rapid strides in domestic cricket thanks to his good length and ability to take the ball away from the pitch with a graceful release action. Since his inclusion, Kumar has been known to bowl crucial deliveries which have often helped Bengal turn the tide.
“I think he deserves it. He was always a very humble guy, down to earth and so simple. He is special,” said Bengal coach Arun Lal, when Kumar started making a name for himself. He is a special act, a genuine wicket-taker and can completely change the game. In the red ball format, I believe he is one of the top three bowlers in the country. He can go for runs but he will get you wickets which others cannot do.