IPL 2022 – Mukesh Choudhary’s determined journey from Bhilwara to Chennai Super Kings

On May 1, Gopal Choudhary and Prembai Choudhary traveled over 500 km from their home in Yavatmal, Maharashtra to Pune to watch their son Mukesh play live cricket on a pitch. It was a first for them, and being driven to the ground, offered premium seating and generally being treated like royalty only added to it. They left the stadium smiling as Choudhary picked up four wickets to keep Chennai Super Kings IPL hopes alive this season.

“It was an amazing feeling to see him play live and do it so well,” Gopal said. “I had only watched it live on the internet before. Before the Mushtaq Ali T20s in Lucknow [last November]Mukesh called and asked us to subscribe to Hotstar so he could watch him play [on TV]. But that experience was something else.”

As Gopal watched the IPL game, he recalled the time when his younger son packed his bags at the age of 13 and left Jaipur with his older brother to study at the Sinhagad Institute in Pune. “He always loved cricket, but he moved mainly to study,” says Gopal.

The family had no sports training. Gopal, a stone crusher, moved to near Yavatmal in Maharashtra in the mid-1980s for work, but left his sons in Bhilwara, Rajasthan, where they grew up in a hostel near their grandfathers’ house. maternal relatives. At the time, Bhilwara had only one multi-purpose ground, which hosted carnivals more often than cricket matches.

Choudhary’s cricketing skills were spotted during his days in Pune. A friend of his, a cricketer for the club, saw him play at Pune’s Law College in a league game and suggested he train at 22 Yards Cricket Academy, co-founded by the former captain of the club. Maharashtra and national coach Surendra Bhave. There he could perfect his game on grass wickets instead of bowling on cement courts.

At the academy, Choudhary caught the eye of several senior players from Maharashtra who came to train there during the off-season, including Kedar Jadhav, Rahul Tripathi, Swapnil Gugale and Ankeet Bawnethe current captain of Maharashtra.

“It was around 2015 when he first came to our academy,” 22 Yards head coach Rajesh Mahurkar recalled. “He didn’t have a lot of pace, but there was something we could work with. With him there were two other left arm pacers. We spoke to all three of them and told them he there was talent, and we could work with it if they’re serious. That’s how it started.

“We worked on his action, his pace and brought him up to speed on his fitness. What stood out was whether it was raining or shining, he was very punctual. He wouldn’t miss the ‘coaching.

“As we got him in shape to be a proficient bowler, we had our next challenge. How can we get him to play more games?”

The academy was ineligible to field a team in the Maharashtra Cricket Association Invitational Tournament, which featured the best club teams in the state and was a key event for state selectors choosing teams in all age groups and for first class cricket.

“A friend of his who knew Pravin Tambe helped find a company team he could play for,” Mahurkar said. “In one of the games, he picked up a five-wicket shot and suddenly stepped into the spotlight.”

In 2017, Choudhary impressed with his pace and accuracy in the RedBull Campus Cricket tournament, where he played for MMCC College. Among his teammates was an upcoming batsman, Ruturaj Gaikwad, who would go on to recommend Choudhary as a net bowler for the Chennai Super Kings in 2021.

By then, Choudhary had already played in the IPL nets, for Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians, having honed his acting during a two-year stint at MRF Pace Academy in Chennai, which he joined in 2016. There he trained under head coach M Senthil Nathan, who has been associated with the academy for over two decades and worked alongside Dennis Lillee and Glenn McGrath.

During his time at the MRF, Choudhary returned to Pune to work with his early mentors whenever possible, but he needed to find a club that could compete in tournaments like the MCA Invitational.

Harshal Pathak, the former Maharashtra cricketer who now coaches the Thailand women’s national team, signed Choudhary for Cadence Academy, one of Pune’s top clubs, shortly after returning from his first stint at the MRF Academy. A year later, on Tripathi’s recommendation, Choudhary moved to Deccan Gymkhana, the city’s oldest and most prestigious club, to train with former Maharashtra cricketer Satyajit Satbhai.

Impressive performances for Deccan saw Choudhary join Maharashtra U23 team and Ranji senior team in the same year. He did his first class debut in November 2017and now, at 25, is Maharashtra’s frontline couture bowler, now that Samad Fallah and Anupam Sanklecha have moved on.

“He’s at that point where he’s no longer insecure,” Bawne said. “He knows he’s a regular. He’s a bowler that a captain can throw the ball to at any time without thinking whether he’s ready or not. I remember a game against Odisha, which we had to win in the first degree. There was only one session left and we needed to pick up about six wickets and then chase a small total.

“He trotted ten to 12 overs, took four wickets and we won the game.

“That attitude comes from within – the willingness to ride even on the quietest pitches. It’s no surprise that CSK have been supporting him despite some tough games, where he was hit during runs. That’s a quick, persistent and honest learner.”

Everyone in Pune circles describes Choudhary as shy, polite and straightforward. Mahurkar, who perhaps knows him better than anyone, praises his discipline and work ethic.

“You will never see him gossiping about anyone. Barely uses a cell phone, max one to two hours a day. No WhatsApp, no Facebook. If he has to communicate, he would rather just call.

“He comes, trains quietly, does all his exercises, he’ll come and talk to us about something he wants to work on in the coming week, and that’s it. You won’t see him idling. If he’s happy with one aspect of his bowling he will work on the next one lately over the past year he has been working hard to improve his pace he has identified what he needs to do to get there he has improved dramatically his fitness and diet. That way he’s very systematic.”

Ahead of this year’s IPL auction – his first – Choudhary seemed confident of being picked up by a franchise. “He said MS Dhoni loves his bowling game and encourages him a lot, and maybe CSK can give him a summons,” Mahurkar said. “It’s no surprise that they made an offer for him and got him back at the auction.”

After watching Choudhary’s evolution closely, Mahurkar believes the next step in his journey is for him to become consistent across formats. “His strength is throwing the ball right-handed, but lately he’s been developing the ball that moves right-handed, away from left-handed.”

He mentions the dismissal of Mumbai Indians fly-half Ishan Kishan at the start of this season as an example. In a game-changing new ball spell, Choudhary knocked out Kishan’s off-balance stump with an outswinger and finished as player of the match. with 3 for 19.

Mahurkar talks about the other two left-arm seamstresses who first came to practice at 22 yards with Choudhary. Following his success at the IPL, they returned to the academy to ask if they could start training again.

“The same guys who at the time seemed to have more pace than Mukesh,” Mahurkar said. “They came back wanting to train again after seeing how far this boy had gone.

“Can there be greater validation than this?”

Shashank Kishore is Senior Deputy Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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