IND v ENG 2024: Akash Deep expresses gratitude to Bengal after earning maiden India Test call-up

Akash was rewarded for his brilliance in first-class cricket for Bengal and India ‘A’ over the past few seasons.

Akash Deep | XBengal pacer Akash Deep on Saturday (February 10) received his maiden India call-up as he was added to the squad for the remaining three Tests of the five-match series against England.

Akash was rewarded for his brilliance in first-class cricket for Bengal and India ‘A’ over the past few seasons.

The right-arm quick was featuring in Bengal’s Ranji Trophy fixture against Kerala when he heard the news about his India selection. He got to know after everyone in the Bengal dressing room clapped in unison and congratulated him.

"I was hopeful that in near future I might get a Test call-up if I keep performing but I didn't expect that it would come by third match itself," Akash told PTI in an exclusive chat.

Akash Deep’s journey has been a roller-coaster one. It is surreal to even think that he ended up making a career in cricket while coming from Bihar’s Sasaram district.

"In Bihar (suspended by BCCI in those days), there was no platform and especially from the place where I came from, Sasaram, playing cricket was a crime. Kitne parents jo aapne bacchon se kahte the Akash se duur raho, woh padhai nahi karta hai aur usko sangat mein bigaad jaogey (Lot of parents would warn their children that don't mingle with Akash as he only plays cricket and your studies would go for toss)," Akash said.

"But you know, I don't blame them. What would you have achieved playing cricket in a place like ours? You would waste time and not even become a cricketer and also ignore academics. Your future would be ruined and they were worried. So, were my parents," he added.

Just like any parent from a middle-class background, Akash’s father also used to tell him to appear for government exams.

"Appear for Bihar Police constable's exams or at least try for state government's class IV staff (peon), my father used to say. He would fill up those government job application forms and I would go for exams and come back submitting blank forms. In my mind, while cricket was my passion, I just wanted to be happy and never thought about making it a career," he said.

But then things changed when tragedy struck as Akash lost his father and brother in a period of six months.

"Six months mein papa aur bhaiyya ka dehant ho gaya. Mere paas khoney ke liye kuch thaa nahi. Motivation yeh thaa ki aab kuch karna hai kyon ki family ki zimmedari leni hai (I had nothing to lose but needed to take responsibility)."

With the help of a friend, he got a chance to play for a club in West Bengal's Durgapur but the money he earned came from playing tennis ball cricket.

"I would play proper leather ball matches for my club but initially there was no money. So there would be three to four days a month, I would play tennis ball matches around district and earned Rs 6000 per day. So I would earn 20,000 per month, which helped me run my expenses," said Akash.

Akash Deep has claimed 103 wickets in 29 first-class matches, averaging 23.18 while bowling with an economy of 3.04.

"Inswing is my stock delivery but at this level, you need to have outswing and reverse swing and more importantly need to control the swing. I was in (India) ODI squad in South Africa and realised more than skill, at this level, it is more about mental strength of being able to execute plans under pressure," he said.

This is the first time in many years that two Bengal pacers feature in the Indian Test squad at the same time.

“This is a matter of pride that myself and Mukesh (Kumar) bhai will be in the Indian dressing room together in a Test team. Bengal is our state and it has given us everything. This national call-up is my way of showing my gratitude to Bengal,” Akash concluded.

(With PTI Inputs)


By Salman Anjum - 11 Feb, 2024

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