Akash Deep: From Sasaram to Indian dressing room via Kolkata Maidans | Cricket News

NEW DELHI: Emotions welled up inside Saurashish Lahiri when Akash Deep, the latest Bengal speed merchant to enter Indian dressing room, rang him up.
It was quite natural too as Lahiri, his first state-level coach, has seen the growth of Akash as a cricketer from close quarters.
“Today, Akash called up and said, “Sir, main toh train thaa, par train ko bhi patri pe laana hota hai, woh aapne kiya.(I was a train but the train needed to be put on track, you did that),” Lahiri, the former Bengal off-spinner recollected the conversation with his “ward” just after he received the best news of his career.
With his new ball colleague Mukesh Kumar already making the India cut, Akash would have been hoping to get a chance or two to prove his mettle like he has been doing it for Bengal over the past four years.
Hailing from a middle-class family in remote Sasaram village in Bihar, the 27-year-old Akash had his share of struggles. He lost his father and elder brother and there was no prevailing sporting culture in the family.
Call it fate but just like Gopalganj’s Mukesh, who was playing tennis ball cricket before ‘Vision2020’ changed his life, Akash, who was a ‘big name’ in Asansol’s ‘khep cricket’ (tennis ball tourneys in Bengal), even went a step further and bowled in a tournament in Dubai.
“I remember I once asked him, did he have a passport and he replied, “Not just a passport sir, thappa bhi laga hai (immigration stamp). Seeing the look on my face, he said that he had played in a high prize-money tennis tournament in Dubai also,” Lahiri remembered.
Joydeep Mukherjee, the erstwhile Director of Bengal senior team, also had a nice little anecdote about how he first found out about the muscular hulk.
“It was at the Rangers Ground, where a second division CAB league match was being held. I saw that the keeper was standing hardly 10 yards behind the stumps when a pacer was bowling from one end, but the keeper stood a good 35 yards back when a lanky boy was operating from the other end.
The guy was bowling so quickly which wasn’t usual in Maidan and more so in second division,” Mukherjee recollected.
“I immediately called up the then U-23 coach Saurashish and even he told me that he had heard about him. We kept Sourav (Ganguly), the then CAB president in loop and he was put in Vision2020 and was also given accommodation at CAB’s dormitory at Eden Gardens as he had no permanent place to stay back then,” Mukherjee remembered.
At Vision 2020, former Bengal pacer Ranadeb Bose worked with him and the transformation from tennis to season-ball cricket happened pretty quickly.
There were some hurdles in the way too. Once selected for Bengal U-23, Akash developed a pain in the waist and being raw, he had little idea that he had developed a stress reaction.
While erstwhile U-23 head coach Lahiri told him to join the U-23 trials where physios would work on his rehabilitation, a junior state selector forced him to bowl which aggravated his back pain.
A furious Lahiri confronted the selector, who was a small-time former Bengal cricketer.
“He said how can we select someone without seeing. I was forced to tell him that I have seen him bowl and he needs rehab now. Whether you guys select him or not, this boy will make his U-23 debut,” Lahiri now laughs about how he lost his cool when an injured newcomer was pushed to bowl.
Having taken 90 wickets in 25 red-ball games, Akash’s biggest strength is his pace and also the ability to bowl vicious in-dippers.
“At the domestic level, during the last Ranji Trophy semi-final between Bengal and MP, the delivery with which he dismissed Rajat Patidar — one that pitched on the off-stump and cut back to flick the off-bail off — could have got any batsmen out.
He can bowl at the same pace for a good 8-10 overs. His stock delivery is inswinger but because he has superb wrist position and gets deliveries to straighten as well,” Lahiri said.
Mukherjee believes that his stint with the Indian team would be a long one.
“Sai (Sairaj Bahutule) knows about his potential when he was with Bengal. Kamlesh (Jain), the current Team India physio has worked with him. There is Paras (India bowling coach). He will only get better in that environment. The best part is if you ask him to repeat a drill 10 times. He will do it 20 times. He is a coach and captain’s delight,” said Mukherjee.
Akash had a brief dip in form after a season with RCB when Jos Buttler launched into him during a game at Chinnaswamy. When he came back, Akash realised that while trying to master the outswing, he was losing his stock delivery.
But fortunately, Lahiri was there to hold his hand. Lahiri, who was then doing his NCA Level 2, in fact, had Akash as “one of his projects”.
The Level-2 aspirants need to work with two players and help them in course correction and NCA’s coaching module strictly says, ‘don’t tinker with player’s basic strength.” His “project” was successful.
For Akash, sky will be the limit from here onwards.

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