It read ‘you have been added to the group’ (WhatsApp group). The message was from the Indian team’s official WhatsApp group. He then received a congratulatory message informing him that he had been picked for the upcoming ODI series against South Africa.
“I can’t tell you how I felt. I was so delighted and surprised at the same time. I didn’t expect this to be very honest. The feeling was a surreal one. I immediately called my mother and told her. She was really happy and delighted. She blessed me. I got very emotional. My mother started crying over the phone. My mother has supported me throughout my career. I owe my career to her,” Mukesh told TimesofIndia.com in an exclusive interview.
Apart from Bengal speedster Mukesh, prolific Madhya Pradesh batsman, Rajat Patidar has been added to the India squad. India are scheduled to play 3 ODIs against South Africa, beginning October 6 and will be led by Shikhar Dhawan.
Mukesh Kumar (PTI Photo)
The first ODI will be played in Lucknow on October 6, the second ODI in Ranchi on October 9, and the third in Delhi on October 11.
A prolific red-ball pacer for Bengal, Mukesh, has been rewarded with his maiden India call-up for his consistent performances, including his stellar show against New Zealand ‘A’ recently. The 28-year-old was the highest wicket-taker in the three-match unofficial Test series against the Kiwis, claiming 9 wickets in 3 matches.
Mukesh, who has 114 wickets in 31 First Class matches so far, didn’t stop there.
He continued his sublime touch in the Irani Cup as well. He picked up 4 wickets in the Saurashtra first innings and then 1 wicket in the second innings. Rest of India went on to beat Saurashtra by 8 wickets to clinch their 29th Irani Trophy. For his figures of 4/23 and 1/49, Mukesh was adjudged Man of the Match.
“I have always believed in hard work and it paid off for me in the end. I wanted to do well in domestic cricket. I want to just go and perform now (vs SA). The squad looks very strong. We have a talented captain in Shikhar Dhawan. I am really excited to meet these seniors and learn a lot from them. Sharing the dressing room with India players will be amazing and I am looking forward to learning a lot. I am looking forward to speaking with and gathering knowledge from the likes of Shardul (Thakur), Avesh (Khan), Deepak (Chahar), (Mohd) Siraj, and Shikhar bhai,” Mukesh, who has taken 17 List A wickets in 18 games so far, further told TimesofIndia.com.
‘WISH MY FATHER WAS ALIVE TODAY’
Mukesh lost his father Kashi Nath Singh to a brain hemorrhage in 2019. Kashi Nath always pushed Mukesh towards academics. He wanted his son to study and get a government job. He wanted his son to have a secure future. Mukesh, in fact, appeared for the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) exams thrice but failed to clear it on all occasions.
Mukesh’s mother knew her son was in love with cricket. She started supporting Mukesh and his dreams of becoming a cricketer.
Mukesh Kumar (PTI Photo)
“Wish he (Mukesh’s father) was alive today. I could share this news with him. He was always against me playing cricket. My mom always supported me. Sourav (Ganguly) sir, VVS sir (VVS Laxman), and Ranadeb Bose sir have supported me a lot in my career. Until I made my Ranji debut, it was really tough to convince my father that I can make it to a high level of cricket. When I made my Ranji debut, he was very happy and blessed me. I can’t forget that day. Today I am missing him a lot. Wish he was here with me and I could hug him and tell him that I have been selected for the Indian team,” Mukesh told TimesofIndia.com with a lump in his throat.
“I am dedicating this call-up to my father. I am sure he must be very happy and watching me from above,” an emotional son added.
BRETT LEE, THE INSPIRATION
Mukesh takes inspiration from former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee. The youngster has a collection of Lee’s bowling videos and he watches those almost every day.
Mukesh Kumar (TOI Photo)
“I never met him (Brett Lee). I became a fast bowler because of him. I love the way he used to bowl with speed. He was so accurate and energetic. He was so aggressive and he knew how to win matches for his team. He used to bowl and bat. He scored runs too whenever his team needed them. I want to become like him – a match-winner for my team. Brett Lee is my idol,” Mukesh, who was born in Kolkata in 1993 further told TimesofIndia.com.
“It will be a dream come true if I meet him (Brett Lee) and I will take a lot of bowling tips from him if that happens,” Mukesh signed off.