That’s when he realised that he had been selected for the ODI series against South Africa, starting October 6 in Lucknow.
Mukesh, 28, lost his father to a brain stroke before the Ranji Trophy finals last year. He would train in the morning and then spend time beside his father’s hospital bed. “Today, my mom had tears in her eyes,” Mukesh said after the news of his selection. “She was so emotional. Everyone at home started crying.”
Hailing from Gopalganj district in Bihar, Mukesh had appeared for the exam to join the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) three times because his father wanted him to get a government job, and he is now employed by the Comptroller and Auditor General office.
He has been Bengal’s most consistent new-ball bowler and his five-wicket haul for India A in the first unofficial Test against New Zealand A and a four-for on the first day of the ongoing Irani Cup game fast-tracked his selection into the Indian team.
“Aapke haathon ki kalakari bhagwan ki den hai, lekin agar unke diye huye aashirwad par mehnat nahi karoge to kuchh nahi hoga. (You can have God’s gift but if you don’t put in the hard work then nothing will happen),” he said. “Life is all about learning and it never stops. My endeavour would be to ensure that till I play cricket, I should never stop learning. [VVS] Laxman sir told me, ‘Mukesh, whatever lengths you bowl for Bengal and how you set up batters, just replicate that consistently.’ I just followed his instruction.”
Mukesh has taken 113 wickets in 31 first-class matches, including the ongoing Irani Cup game, and has 17 wickets in 18 List A games with an economy rate of 5.17. He is one of those rare cricketers in recent times who has made it to India’s limited-overs squad without playing in the IPL.
When asked whether his mother would be present to watch if he makes his debut against South Africa, Mukesh said: “Mujhe ground se dekhne se zyada meri mummy mujhe kaamyab dekhna pasand karenge. (More than watching me from the ground, my mother would like to see me become successful.)”