IPL 2022: Who is Mukesh Choudhary, CSK’s latest tempo sensation?

Ruturaj Gaikwad entranced his home crowd was expected by a large crowd at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium on Sunday. But the Maharashtra cricket connoisseurs were also looking forward to another mini-battle within Maharashtra later on during the Chennai Super Kings face-off against Sunrisers Hyderabad.

They had to wait until the sixth in the chase. And the all-Pune one-on-one took a lone ball. Rahul Tripathi, arguably Pune’s most successful IPL cricketer to date, marked his guard, Mukesh Choudhary threw a perfect short ball that formed, Tripathi attempted an uppercut right into the palms of Simrajeet Singh at short third.

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Choudhary let out an ecstatic scream as Tripathi continued to shake his head on his long way back to the locker room, even stomping his fist on the bat as he crossed the rope in pain.

Despite being on the receiving end in the personal battle and the match, Tripathi was one of the first Sunrisers to give Choudhary a warm hug after the match for his four-wicket-haul. After all, the Maharashtra batter is one of Choudhary’s most staunch supporters since he first faced him in the nets at the 22 Yards Cricket Academy in 2015.

Mukesh Choudhary works on bowling skills with coach Rajesh Mahurkar at the 22 Yards Cricket Academy. – Rajesh Mahurkar

He may not be as fast as Umran Malik or Kuldeep Sen, but Choudhary is certainly one of the most feel-good stories of the 2022 edition of the Indian Premier League. Choudhary has had a fairytale ride in recent months, from just bowling for Sunrisers Hyderabad to repeating the same at IPL 2021’s UAE with Chennai Super Kings to emerging as the main pacesetter for the yellow brigade.

But things haven’t gone so smoothly for the left-arm pacer who has captured the attention of the cricketing world after being drawn through different corners of the country.

He was born in the Bhilwara district of Rajasthan and attended primary school at a residential school in Jaipur near the home of his maternal grandparents. His parents – father Gopal who is a rock crusher and mother Prembai – had moved from Rajasthan to Darwha in the 1980s. Darwha is a small town nearly an hour’s drive from Yavatmal, a district headquarters in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.

Father Gopal, who first saw Mukesh in action from the stadium on Sunday, says Mukesh has hardly lived with the parents. “We wanted both of our sons to study, so first they were in a hostel in Jaipur and when Mukesh was in eighth standard, we moved both him and his brother to a residential hostel in Pune.”

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Little did Gopal know that Mukesh will not only excel in academics but will also reach new heights on a cricket pitch. But his foray into competitive cricket was also coincidental.

Rajesh Mahurkar, head coach of 22 Yards Cricket Academy in Bavdhan with former Maharashtra captain-coach Surendra Bhave as mentor, recalls a local cricketer taking Mukesh to their academy after meeting him on the grounds of ILS Law College.

“It was around 2015 that he first came to our academy. He didn’t have a lot of pace, but there was something we could work with. In addition to him, there were two other pacemakers on the left arm. We spoke to all three of them and said, ‘There’s talent, and if they’re serious, we can work with it. That’s how he started,” remembers Mahurkar.

“Slowly we worked on his action, pace and got him up to speed with his fitness. What stood out was rain or shine, he was very punctual. He wouldn’t miss practice. When we got him in shape to be a competent bowler we had our next challenge, how do we get him to play more games?”

Bhave, who remembers Mukesh’s first impression as “someone who could eventually become a six foot sinewy bowler with the basic physique needed for a fast bowler”, then sprang into action and made a few phone calls to his local friends. .

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Mukesh Choudhary is congratulated by Surendra Bhave after representing Maharashtra in the Ranji Trophy. – Rajesh Mahurkar

The likes of Tripathi and Satyajit Satbhai, the former Maharashtra wicketkeeper batter who is now BCCI match umpire, stepped in and got Choudhary brought in by Deccan Gymkhana, one of the most prestigious clubs on the local circuit.

“Talent aside, he is so quiet, hardworking and disciplined that everyone tends to help him by getting out of the way,” says Satbhai.

As a result, just over two years after joining 22 Yards, Mukesh made his First Division debut in November 2017, captained by Ankeet Bawane. In between, he honed his skills and gained a reputation for consistent performance and exposure in various tournaments.

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Be it the Invitation League of the Maharashtra Cricket Association, the selection tournament for the state teams or the Red Bull Campus Cricket for his college team Marathwada Mitramandal Commerce College with Ruturaj Gaikwad as his teammate or random corporate tournaments in and around Maharashtra, Choudhary continued to strive to more difficult.

“One of his friends, who happened to know Pravin Tambe, helped find a corporate team to play for,” says Mahurkar. “In one of the matches he took five wicket and suddenly came into the limelight.”

And then came the call from the MRF Pace Academy in Chennai, which turned out to be a game-changer. Under the watchful eye of the legendary Glenn McGrath, Choudhary grew into a pacesetter ready to succeed against all odds.

Bawane, who has been reinstated as a Maharashtra captain with Choudhary spearheading a young striker’s bowling, provides insight into the pacer’s development.

“He’s at the stage where he’s not insecure anymore,” Bawane says. “He knows he’s a regular. He’s a bowler to whom a captain can throw the ball at any stage without thinking whether he’s ready or not.”

Bawane cites as an example the Ranji Trophy match of Maharashtra against Odisha in 2019-20. “We had to win outright. But there was only one session left and we had to pick six wickets or something and then chase a small total,” he recalls.

“Mukesh bowled 10-12 overs at a trot, won four wickets and we won the game. That attitude comes from within, the willingness to pull away even in the quietest of fields. He has that. It’s no surprise that CSK has supported him despite some difficult games in which he was hit for runs. He is a quick learner, can be persistent.”

It’s not just his ability to stick to the captain’s plan that has helped Choudhary gain the trust of team management. He has been persistent in breaking the IPL barrier – from a net bowler to a fixture on a team.

“Over the past year he has worked hard to improve his pace. So he’s determined what he needs to do to get there. He has greatly improved his fitness and nutrition. In that way he is very systematic’, says Mahurkar.

“Just after the last IPL, he said that MS Dhoni liked his bowling and encouraged him a lot, and possibly CSK could call him. It’s no surprise that they actually bid on him and picked him up at the auction.”

Don’t be surprised if Choudhary continues to scale higher in the near future!

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