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Cricketer Akash Deep: ‘Nothing to lose and everything to win.‘

Cricketer Akash Deep’s rise to form from humble beginnings is the stuff of dreams but the story of an emerging India

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Cricketer Akash Deep’s three-wicket haul in his debut match against England was something of a miracle for more reasons than one. While dismissing openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett as well as taking out an in-form Ollie Pope for a duck was nothing less than the perfect debut, it’s the story of the journey to getting his first India cap that makes his three wickets all the more special.

Born in Baddi, a Bihari village a mere 200 kilometres away from where he would make his test debut for India some 27 years later, Akash Deep’s journey started from humble beginnings. He was passionate about all things cricket from a young age, but his father, a government school teacher, was reluctant to let his son pursue a cricket career. Instead he urged Deep to focus on his studies and aim for a secure government job.  Many parents in their community urged their children to not associate with Deep, fearing they would follow in his footsteps and disregard their education.

 

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Facing his first major career setback, the suspension of the Bihar Cricket Association meant Deep’s chances in Bihar were limited. Recommended by a friend to join a tennis-ball cricket team in Durgapur, Deep put his schooling on hold and moved in with his uncle in West Bengal to pursue his dream at the age of 14. Earning Rs 600 per day, Deep was able to keep up with necessary expenses needed to get by.

As he began to gain traction in the cricketing world, Akash faced perhaps the biggest setback of his career, with both his father and older brother passing away within six months of each other in 2015. Forced to put his career on the backbench and go back to Baddi to take care of his mother and two younger sisters, Deep became the primary breadwinner in his household.

Despite facing these setbacks, Akash Deep’s dream to play for India never rested, as he moved back to Durgapur 3 years later in an attempt to rekindle the fire that he once had. With the help of his cousin, Deep joined the United Club in the CAB first division league and transitioned himself from a tennis ball player to a genuine leather-ball professional. Though Akash initially faced obstacles when adapting to the laborious nature of professional cricket, his resolve continued to push him to new heights.

It was current Bengal Cricket Association coach Ranadeb Bose who discovered Deep’s potential. Deep’s bowling, described to Bose as “quick, but very erratic” by former Indian player Manoj Tiwari, caught the eye of the former pace bowler for West Bengal, and he decided to work with Akash, helping him reach Bengal U-23s side.

Despite achieving a big breakthrough in his career, Deep was once again faced with a setback, as a career-threatening back injury kept him away from the field for a prolonged period of time. Familiar with overcoming major adversity, Akash Deep bounced back from his injury even stronger than before, earning him a spot in Bengal’s Ranji Trophy team in 2019.

Good form with the ball in hand won Deep a contract with the most coveted club T20 tournament in world cricket, the IPL, with Royal Challengers Bangalore selecting Deep to play in the second half of the 2021 season. Playing alongside the likes of Virat Kohli, Glenn Maxwell, Faf du Plessis and Mohammed Siraj, Akash Deep has picked up 6 wickets in 7 IPL matches across 2 years.

Being handed his cap, accompanied by a heart-warming speech retelling Akash’s journey to the top by coach Rahul Dravid, Deep dedicated his performance to his late father, who, in Deep’s own words, “wanted his son to do something in his life.” Although taking over from the rested Jasprit Bumrah would be no easy feat for any bowler, let alone that of a debutant, the occasion of it all didn’t get to his head, as he continued to follow the same process that got him to that moment.

 

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An emotional Akash Deep spoke to the media after the game, citing how big a role his family had in his success, with his mother revealing that she used to secretly send him to play cricket to help him follow his dreams.

Although Akash Deep’s debut will undoubtedly remain an unforgettable testament to the years of hard work that he has put in, the main focus will be to maintain his position as one of India’s key bowlers in the future. With a fierce competition for places in the starting 11 every game, the road to becoming an important figure within the Indian bowling cartel will be a challenging one that will test his determination and willpower. But seeing as how he passed through all of the adversities that he has faced with flying colours, the name Akash Deep may become a household name sooner rather than later.

READ ALSO: How a ten-year-old Shubman Gill got his break

Renesh Krishnan
Renesh Krishnan
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