Navi Mumbai: A couple of days ago against Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2022, Mukesh Choudhary was out of sorts. Going for 40 runs in his four overs though he picked a wicket and dropped some catches, Choudhary looked like a person who was in dire need of confidence and inspiration to bounce back. A few days before, Choudhary had taken some serious beating when he went for 52 runs in four wicketless overs against Punjab Kings. But thanks to Chennai’s reputation of backing players to the hilt despite average showings, Choudhary’s chance to shine came when he picked three early wickets against Mumbai Indians at DY Patil Stadium.
From four wickets in first five IPL 2022 matches to picking 3/19 in three overs against Mumbai, it has been a stunning turnaround tale for Choudhary. With his left-arm pace, Chaudhary set the tone by forcing Rohit Sharma to chip too early to mid-on, knocked over Ishan Kishan with a yorker which had some away-swing and sent back Dewald Brevis early to leave Mumbai in mess.
It took him time but he has now stepped up to the faith shown on him by the team management in taking wickets upfront and set the base for Chennai’s close win. Cricket was Choudhary’s favourite sport when he was growing up in Pardodas village in Bhilwara district of Rajasthan.
“When I was small, the bigger guys wouldn’t let me bat or bowl, but I would field all day. The situation in my home was not great. In my village, there was no club or anything so it all started with tennis ball. In fourth standard my father put me in a boarding school because there wasn’t much facility to study in my village. I then tried other sports too, like basketball, volleyball, hockey. But cricket was always my favourite,” said Choudhary to CSK TV.
As Choudhary grew from a young boy to teenager, a shift to boarding school in Pune began a serious growth of his cricketing ambitions amidst expectations of doing well in academics. “Then in 9th standard I came to a boarding school in Pune. I got an opportunity to play a few matches with leather ball. Then in junior college I played more matches and I lost interest in academics.”
“I didn’t tell my parents but I started focusing on cricket. When my name would appear on newspapers, I would send it to them. My father said ok, but continue to study because a lot of people play cricket. Two years later I played Ranji Trophy (for Maharashtra) – then he felt ok and supported me. Till I got selected for the state, only my brother knew I was playing cricket seriously. My parents didn’t know!”
Choudhary’s sterling show against Mumbai must have made his father proud back home. “I only wanted to be in the ground through the day. I didn’t want to go out or anything. From morning to evening, I was at the ground. I learnt from my father about working hard. He would leave at 4am and come back at midnight. He felt if he worked hard, his children will be happy in the future. My father did a lot for us and there’s nobody bigger than him for me.”
“You have to believe in yourself that you can turn things around anytime in difficult times.” This was Australia pace great Glenn McGrath’s advice to Choudhary at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai, where the left-arm pacer trained under the legendary Australian. On Thursday, McGrath’s advice came apt when the young pacer overcame his poor IPL start to leave Mumbai in tatters.
“My journey has been difficult but my family supported me. When I was alone in Pune, my sister supported me a lot. Food, physically, mentally… even when I was down at times, my sister would send me to the ground forcefully. Without her I wouldn’t have been able to do well. Even when I was selected, she told me to think about the next steps and do well,” signed off Choudhary.