IPL 2023 Auction: Mukesh Kumar finally makes it big
Bengal pacer picked by Delhi Capitals for ₹5.5 crore at IPL auction
Two years ago, Mukesh Kumar took 32 wickets, bowling Bengal to the Ranji Trophy final where they lost to Saurashtra. Earlier this month, he took 6/40 to put India A in command against Bangladesh in a match they won by an innings and 123 runs.
A place in the ODI squad against South Africa at home, followed by A tours of Bangladesh and New Zealand — 2022 had already been kind to him. Kumar is 29. He had come so far without playing IPL (even though he had attended quite a few trials) and so it was more or less assumed this would be as far he would, perhaps, come. But life finds curious ways of creating fairy tales out of run-of-the-mill stories. ₹5.5 crore richer after Delhi Capitals’s winning IPL auction bid on Friday, Kumar’s is no different.
This story starts twice over, once at the Kakarkund village in Bihar’s Gopalganj district, then at the trials of the Vision 2020 programme at Eden Gardens in 2014. While his father tried his luck with a taxi business in Kolkata, Kumar was content staying back in his village, playing tennis ball matches and dreaming to make it big. But as is the case with most families in rural India, Kumar’s father Kashinath wanted him to join the army. He relented, even appearing for the exams twice but didn’t crack them. When it seemed 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 only when he joined Bani Niketan—a second division CAB league club—did he finally understand how different professional cricket really is. Kumar could still hardly afford his equipment but the maidan clubs in Kolkata always find a way to sustain the fighters among the scores coming to try their luck, be it Mohammed Shami in 2008 or in this case, Kumar. A first division league offer soon came his way and slowly Kumar started to make his mark.
It was at his club that Kumar first heard of the Cricket Association of Bengal’s Vision 2020 programme, where former India pacer Ranadeb Bose was holding trials under the supervision of VVS Laxman, Waqar Younis and Muttiah Muralitharan. Kumar didn’t get many balls but it is said his yorker swung enough for Bose to be convinced of his talent. He was selected for the programme, put on a special diet and one year later, Kumar made his domestic debut in Rohtak where he was the pick of the bowlers (comprising Ashok Dinda, Veer Pratap Singh and Pragyan Ojha), taking 4/53.
From then on, Kumar started making rapid strides in domestic cricket with his good lengths and ability to move the ball off the pitch thanks to a beautiful release action. Since his inclusion, Kumar is known for bowling critical spells that have often helped Bengal turn the tide.
“I think he deserves this. He was always a very humble boy, down to earth and so unassuming. He is special,” said Arun Lal, coach of Bengal when Kumar started making a name for himself. “He is a special act, a genuine wicket-taker and can change the game completely. In the red-ball format, I believe he is one of the top three bowlers in the country. He may go for runs but he will get you wickets that others can’t.”