‘Dhoni was right … ‘: Pacer Mukesh after maiden Test call-up

NEW DELHI: ‘If given a chance, I won’t disappoint’ – Bengal pacer

Mukesh Kumar

, who hails from Gopalganj in Bihar, told TimesofIndia.com in an exclusive interview before boarding a flight enroute to the Caribbean.
Mukesh is part of both the India Test and ODI squads against the West Indies.
India will kick off their long tour of the Caribbean and US with a two-match Test series, starting July 12 at Windsor Park in Roseau, Dominica. The Test series will be followed by three ODIs and then five T20Is.
The 29-year-old Mukesh, who lost his father Kashi Nath Singh to a brain hemorrhage in 2019, was included as a stand-by player in the World Test Championship Final which India lost to Australia. He was also part of the ODI series against South Africa in September last year.

The Bengal pacer was rewarded for his consistent performances in the domestic circuit and IPL 2023. He bagged 22 wickets in the 2022-2023 Ranji season, playing a key role in their journey to the Ranji final. He has 149 scalps in 39 first-class matches so far.

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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.

He was also the highest wicket-taker in the three-match unofficial Test series against New Zealand A in September last year. He claimed 9 wickets in 3 matches.
In IPL 2023, Mukesh, who represents Delhi Capitals, bagged 7 wickets in 10 matches. His 7 scalps included the wickets of Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Yashasvi Jaiswal, and Jos Buttler.
TimesofIndia.com caught up with Mukesh for an exclusive interview to talk about his maiden Test call-up, the WTC Final, tips he got from the likes of MS Dhoni,

Mohammed Shami

, and Ishant Sharma, and much more…
On maiden Test call up…
Agar aap Test nahin khele toh kya khele (If you haven’t played Tests, you haven’t really played). I am very happy and excited. I was expecting this call-up and I would say this has come at the right time. I am really thankful to the selectors, seniors, coaches, and my captain for giving me this opportunity. I am prepared and have put in a lot of hard work to reach here. If I get a chance, I will not disappoint. I am ready to give my 100 percent. My family is so happy. When the news came in, I told my mother first and then took blessings in front of my father’s photo.
You were picked as a standby player for the WTC Final and were part of the ODI series vs South Africa as well…
Sharing the dressing room with senior players in the WTC Final was a big thing for me. I used to observe players in the nets and on the field. We all know international cricket is different. I was adamant about learning and did that during the WTC Final as well as the South Africa ODI series. Bowling to top India batsmen – Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Rohit Sharma – was a big thing for me. It was a huge learning curve for me. There have been so many ups and downs in my career and life and now that life has given me this opportunity, I want to give my 100 percent.

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Did you manage to take any tips from Mohammed Shami during the WTC Final?
Whenever I got the chance, I interacted with him. He is such an experienced pacer and there is so much to learn from him. He says one thing ‘tu jo daalta hai, wohi daal’ (bowl what you always bowl). He treats me like a younger brother. As an elder brother and senior player, he taught me a lot of things and gave me tips regarding my bowling.
Shami isn’t part of the Test squad for the series against the Windies. Do you see yourself getting a playing XI call-up?
Yes. I am ready. Whatever I have learned so far, I will use it all in the West Indies. I am really looking forward to a good series. The WTC Final was a huge experience, a wonderful learning curve for me. The selection (for the Test squad) is a dream come true for me and I want to make the most of the opportunity. Representing your country in Test cricket is a big, big thing for any cricketer. I am grateful that I am now part of the India Test squad.
You also played alongside the experienced Ishant Sharma at Delhi Capitals…
I am really thankful to Delhi Capitals for giving me the opportunity. IPL was a good learning experience. Ahead of the IPL, I spoke to Ranadeb bhaiya (Ranadeb Bose). He told me how to handle the pressure . Ishant (Sharma) bhaiya has helped me a lot. Aise ball daal, is angle mein daal, iss spot pe hit kar (bowl like this, try and deliver the ball from this angle, try and hit this spot on the pitch) – all these things he taught me. He asked me develop as many skills in my bowling as possible. He said – tension leke bowling nahi daalna hai, jitna halka rhega utna hi achi bowling karega (don’t take tension, just bowl freely). Tips from Ishant bhaiya and Shami bhaiya will help me in the Caribbean also.
What was your meeting with MS Dhoni like during the IPL?
I always wanted to meet Dhoni bhaiya and ask him a couple of things. This hapened because of the IPL. I met him and the first thing I asked him – ‘ek captain aur wicketkeeper hote hue aap apne bowlers ko kya batate ho‘ (What exactly do you tell your bowlers as a captain and wicket-keeper?).

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He put his hands around my shoulders and said, ‘I tell this to every bowler that till the time you won’t try, you won’t learn. He said you need to do exactly what you want to do. If you won’t, you will not learn. He said to forget the outcome, and just go and try. He explained this thing really well to me. Guidance from him helped me in my approach to my game. He was absolutely right, we shouldn’t be worried about the outcome, we should just go and express ourselves.

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