Bikram Sharma expected his son, the leg-spinner, Mayank Markande, to tell him about another five-wicket haul when he called on Friday. Markande was playing for India ‘A’ against England Lions in Mysore and had claimed five wickets for 31 runs on the third day of the match.
However, Markande had called him to inform about his call up to India’s T20 squad for the series against Australia.
“I thought Mayank called me to talk about the five-wicket haul. And when he told us about the selection for the Indian team, we could not believe it. I was a national level athlete and held the still-standing Punjab U-16 record of 6.19 metre, before an ankle injury cut short my career. I still remember Mayank was about 5 years old when I took him to athletics coaches at NIS, Patiala seeing his fine running. But he always liked cricket. Playing for India is the biggest thing and we are glad that he can achieve his dream,” shared Bikram Sharma, who works as a Sub Divisional Officer with the Chief Electrical Inspector Office at Patiala.
The leading wicket-taker for Punjab U-19 with 25 and 35 wickets in the Cooch Behar trophy in the 2015-16 and 2016-2017 seasons respectively, Markande’s rise on the national scene started last year when he claimed three wickets including that of MS Dhoni’s in his debut for Mumbai Indians before ending the IPL with a total of 15 wickets in 14 matches.
Skidding googly a potent weapon
A leg-spinner is always an asset to the team in the T20 format. While Mayank’s first big success came during his debut match for Mumbai Indians against Chennai Super Kings in last year’s IPL, it was something which he had worked on for long. His googly comes at a fast speed and with time, his wrist has become strong which means that he imparts a lot of revolutions on the ball. This was the case in his debut IPL match where he first snared Ambati Rayudu with a flipper before removing MS Dhoni with a skidding googly. In the T20 format, leg spinners are very effective as they take the ball away from the right-handed batsman and can also deceive the left-handers with a googly. As told to Nitin Sharma
The last six months have seen Markande make his Ranji trophy debut and the leg-spinner has taken a total of 34 wickets in seven first class matches, which also included three five-wicket scalps and two four-wicket hauls.
The youngster was also part of the India Emerging team for the Emerging Teams Asia Cup in Sri Lanka last December, where he claimed 12 wickets in four matches.
“Getting the national call-up is always a special moment in a cricketer’s life. I am happy it came on a day when I took five wickets against England Lions. The Emerging teams Asia Cup also helped my confidence as wickets were slow in Sri Lanka and I tried more variations in the second innings, which helped me. I’ve been working on my leg-spin since the last one year and rewards have come in form of wickets. My father never represented India due to his injury and I am happy that I will represent India and realise his dream,” shared Markande, while talking with The Indian Express.
The youngster had joined the NICS Academy in Patiala to train under Mahesh Inder Singh, former Punjab off-spinner and father of former Indian all-rounder Reetinder Singh Sodhi, at seven years. Markande started out as a medium-pacer before Singh asked him to concentrate on leg-spin. While Markande trains with former India U-19 assistant coach Munish Bali since the last seven years, the youngster often calls Singh for guidance.
“When he first came to me with his father, he wanted to be a pacer. Seeing him bowling and batting, I realised that his body is very flexible apart from his wrists that is one of the main requirement of being a leg-spinner. His footwork was also very swift and such kids with flexible body are rare to find. He would bowl a delivery which would come out slow from back of his hand and with time, he developed the googly apart from using the crease to deceive batsmen. He used to watch videos of Anil Kumble and Shane Warne as a kid and he is very quick to grasp things and we still discuss things some times. The only thing I ask him is that batsman ko deceive karke kitni wickets mili? (how many wickets did you take by deceiving the batsman)” says Singh.
While the Indian team management has included Yuzvendra Chahal as the other spinner in the T-20I team, Markande’s leg-spin will add to Indian management’s options in the series.
Markande picked up five wickets apart from hitting a half-century in his Ranji Trophy debut this season for Punjab against Andhra Pradesh, a team with which Munish Bali was working as fielding coach.
“Mayank has progressed a lot in the last one year. He has a very deceptive googly which turns very fast and initially it meant that he would bowl leg-spin bit slow resulting in fewer revolutions in the air. We worked on this and it has made him more potent,” shared Bali.
Before the IPL, Markande was ignored for the Punjab U-23 side initially. The team U-23 coach Sunil Saggi, who has also seen Markande from his junior days believes that Markande’s comeback from that situation helped his game.
“In his U-19 days, his arm was short as he was still young meaning that his length would suffer. But he would pick wickets. With age, his body has gotten more flexible and now his strength is his length. Last year, he was not selected for Punjab U-23s. I insisted on his inclusion in the second match and he picked up wickets in the tournament,” shared Saggi.
As for Markande’s mother Mrs Sandeep Sharma, who runs a boutique in Patiala, it was also a time to remember all the practice sessions at the Sharma home.
“I am more passionate about cricket than his father. And Mayank would ask me to bat in the lobby while he would bowl with plastic balls. He would wake up at 3-30 a.m so that he could study also before going for training and school,” she shared.