There’s a lot of difference between bowling in India and South Africa, says Mukesh Kumar

Humble beginnings: Mukesh’s life changed since he got selected in the Cricket Association of Bengal’s Vision 2020 programme.
| Photo Credit: AFP

One winter afternoon at Kalyani, near Kolkata, four years ago, not long before Covid-19 shut the world down, the Ranji Trophy match between Bengal and Hyderabad produced a fascinating passage of cricket. Two men bowled unchanged for 20 overs: it was one of the most hostile spells of pace bowling you could have come across in India’s domestic cricket.

Akash Deep and Mukesh Kumar were magnificent and claimed 11 wickets between them. While Akash is yet to play for India (he has been very much part of the India-A squads), Mukesh made his India debut in all three formats within a space of a fortnight, in the West Indies last year.

For someone who moved to Kolkata from a small town in Bihar (Gopalganj) to help his father’s taxi business, he hasn’t done badly. In 2014, he got selected in the Cricket Association of Bengal’s Vision 2020 programme, and his life changed.

Delhi Capitals was willing to spend Rs. 5.5 crore on him when he was still an uncapped player, and he is now an inspiration for cricketers from small towns. And he loves to help them; he gives them financial assistance and gifts them cricketing gear as well.

Mukesh is glad he could do his bit in India’s series-squaring victory in the second Test at the Newlands Cricket Ground. He took four wickets in the match – two for none and two for 56 – and showed he is the kind of Test bowler who could come in as the ideal change after spells from the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj.

“There’s a lot of difference between bowling on these kinds of tracks and those in India,” he said. “Here, if you try to bowl too full, you will get hit for fours and sixes. Our plan was to bowl between six and eight metres. But here you get a lot of bounce and we had to be consistent.”

Consistency has been a hallmark of his bowling always, and he is capable of delivering long spells. He worked on those aspects during the time he trained under coaches like Ranadeep Bose in Kolkata.

“The coaches at the NCA and him (Bose) are the people I still go back to if I face any technical issues with my bowling,” Mukesh said. “You have to make adjustments when you are playing for the country in short and long formats, and I practise a lot for that.”

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