For Indian cricket, 2007 is usually considered a dark spot regarding ODIs. It was a year that saw a steep decline in ODI form considering India’s upset at the 50-over World Cup in the Caribbean.
Defeated by Bangladesh, sporting drooping shoulders, Dravid’s men walked away from the West Indies jaded and sad following the massive heartbreak. That very year, a month or two down the line, millions of miles away in the cricket-frenzied Indian heartland, a 17 year old Tamil Nadu cricketer made his first class debut. He didn’t impress, really, with scores of 11 and 20 against the Sri Lanka Cricket Invitation XI at Colombo. But neither did his side, crumbling for 74 and 202, not giving the Lankan Eleven much competition.
But amidst the cacophony of Tamil Nadu’s collapse, this left hander’s painstakingly correct technique was noticed.
The next big opportunity, a reckoning of sorts, arrived in 2011. It was a year where India were blanked out by England in England as well as a year where Rahul Dravid notched up 3 magnificent hundreds in the same tour and ended up with over 1000 runs in a calendar year.
So much of Indian cricket has been about hurt, glories and their polarization that when vital batsmen like Abhinav Mukund make their debuts, they don’t exactly hold the attention of the mass media. Nonetheless, silent but reassuringly bright, they persist.
A determined start versus West Indies
Mukund, in his maiden Test assignment against the West Indies, occupied the crease for 116 balls while batting for 162 minutes at Jamaica. While scoring 11 and 25, he made it clear that though he hadn’t scored big, his technique and patience were right up there with the domineering and brilliant talents like Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara.
Batting alongside Vijay and opening in England
There hasn’t been a major technical flaw reported in media about the steady Tamil Nadu batsman, one who opened alongside Murali Vijay, now a regular member of the Indian side. Vijay is someone who has seen Mukund’s game catapult Tamil Nadu to great heights. There could be no greater proof of Mukund’s current form - 876 runs at an average of 58.4 in the 2016-17 domestic season.
After the Caribbean sojourn, the victorious Indian side traveled to England for the fateful tour where they would be reminded by Dravid that there was a Wall to safeguard India when the Master and Very Very Special strokemakers failed to put up a fight in the middle.
Mukund seemed happy accepting the challenge in England
Opening the batting in his maiden tour of England, Mukund found himself at the centre of the attention at Lord’s. While that game was mostly about Dravid’s masterly defiance in the face of England’s inevitable victory, Abhinav Mukund finally made some headline material in his characteristic unhurried and effortless manner.
Making it to a methodic and patient 49 in the first innings at the home of cricket, Mukund sadly fell short of what could’ve been the second half century in a career that had only just begun. But in occupying the pitch for about 117 minutes, Mukund’s 49 was India’s second-highest score following a brilliant Dravid ton.
Post that mini-heroism from him, the action shifted to Nottingham where he suffered a golden duck and an ordinary 3. And we never heard or saw much of Mukund as the typical Indian axe fell on his career. He was a phenomenon that had only just begun and would’ve surely benefitted from some favour, opportunity and encouragement.
But here’s the point
He was never a lame customer with the bat. In his 25 and 49 at Jamaica and Lord’s, he demonstrated skill and patience, the former due to his stoic technique and the latter from a virtue most Test batsmen ought to have.
In the process of holding up a fiery Chris Tremlett and an intrusive Stuart Broad, Mukund looked as calm and comfortable in his skin as he was against Bishoo, Fidel Edwards and Graeme Swann.
But I reckon 2011 in particular was such a disaster to India’s Test fortunes that those who could’ve been done away with were done away with.
There was nothing personal in Mukund’s dropping just as there isn’t in his recall. The word is that Abhinav Mukund, now a full-fledged top notch domestic cricketer, one who has braved indifferent form, endured unjust axes from the team and persisted against testing times could finally have a go once again. Even if, that means in a one-off Test against Bangladesh!
February 9, 2017 could be that date as India who take on Bangladesh may want to finally opt Mukund over KL Rahul, who truth be told, despite his enormous potential and its very ripe showings in the past, hasn’t particularly impressed in the ODI series against touring English.
Therefore, for a batsman, who already has 26 hundreds and 30 fifties and tons of runs, in fact 8500 of those in first-class cricket a chance, even a one-off against not exactly cricket’s powerful and obdurate would be akin to entering a battle for glory, one fought particularly for redemption. After all, at the other end would be a certain Murali Vijay.
BCCI are you keen on Mukund again? Perhaps you should be.
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