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Bengal in Ranji Trophy final after 13 years, on pace shuttle

Bengal took about 105 minutes on the penultimate day to thrash Karnataka by 174 runs

Sayak Banerjee Calcutta Published 03.03.20, 09:12 PM
(From left) Bengal pacers Mukesh Kumar, Ishan Porel and Akash Deep celebrate Bengal’s win at the Eden on Tuesday

(From left) Bengal pacers Mukesh Kumar, Ishan Porel and Akash Deep celebrate Bengal’s win at the Eden on Tuesday Picture by Santosh Ghosh

Mukesh Kumar’s mind was disturbed and in a confused state a little over three months ago when his father passed away.

But he carved a way out of the flux, courtesy the support from his family and the Bengal squad, and turned things around wonderfully by being one of the integral parts of Bengal’s path to the Ranji Trophy final after 13 long years.


Relying on movement and extra speed that he has been able to generate of late, Mukesh (6/61) breathed fire as Bengal took just about 105 minutes on the penultimate day to thrash star-studded Karnataka by 174 runs in the semis clash here at the Eden.

The pacer, with determination writ large on his face, dedicated the six wickets to his late father, who was a taxi driver by profession.

“I was struggling for rhythm earlier in the season. My father passed away in November and I was really depressed.

“The Gujarat match went pretty bad for me, but my team supported me and gave me the courage. I changed my mindset then and urged myself to look forward and keep going for the person who did so much for me.

“Our fitness coach Sanjib Das too helped me get stronger with his fitness exercises. This performance is for my father. These six wickets are for all the sacrifices he made for me,” Mukesh told The Telegraph.

Bowling coach Ranadeb Bose recalled that tough phase that Shahbaz went through. “His father was no more and he was unable to cope with it then. But (Arun) Lalji consoled him. Lalji did tell Mukesh that his father’s death was an irreparable loss, but he should also realise that he had just two options — either keep crying over it or take the field and step up for the man who did so much for him,” Bose said.

“Mukesh certainly has repaid the faith shown in him by Sourav Ganguly and the CAB after Waqar (Younis) initially rejected him for the Vision camp.”

Mukesh bowled relentlessly from the High Court end, picking as many as five of the seven wickets that Bengal needed to make the final.

Bengal coach Arun Lal

Bengal coach Arun Lal (Telegraph picture)

Karnataka, resuming on 98/3, were all out for 177. A side that features three players who have played for India were bowled out for below 200 on the second consecutive occasion and thrashed in less than four days.

Anustup Majumdar was rightly adjudged Man of the Match for his match-winning as well as match-saving knock, but a huge amount of credit goes to Bengal’s pacers as well.

While Ishan Porel was the hero in the first innings with his accuracy-defining five-for, Mukesh played a massive role to play by dismissing Manish Pandey — the first wicket to fall on Tuesday — twice in the game and the biggest star KL Rahul in the first innings.

“I had thought that I could take five wickets today. Hum sabko pataa hain ke yahaan pe subah ko wicket kuchh na kuchh harkat karta hai (We all know the wicket here does something in the morning). The weather too was a bit cloudy this morning. So we felt that if it remained that way, we could clean them up in one session only.

“This morning, I walked to the Eden (from the hotel) because I felt I should go there early because whatever extra four-five minutes I got, I could plan something,” Mukesh said.

On the plot to dismiss Pandey, Mukesh said: “He (Manish) faces a lot of problems in dealing with balls that come into him. I kept bowling a fourth stump line and he played and missed on several occasions the previous evening, and same was the case today.

“When I pitched it on that line, the ball either went away or came in. He was clearly in problems. Manojbhai bhi kah rahe thhe, ‘tu wohi karta ja’ (Manojbhai too said, ‘You keep on doing that’). My patience eventually bore fruit.”

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