Cricket, they say, is not just a sport; it’s a story waiting to be written. In a fresh chapter for Indian Test cricket, enter Akash Deep, the 27-year-old pacer with a narrative that’s equal parts dreams, resilience, and a touch of Bengal magic. Recently handed a maiden call-up to India’s Test squad against England, Akash Deep’s tale is not just a rollercoaster. It’s a joyous, and sometimes tearful, ride through fields towards well-deserved glory.
Born in the quaint town of Dehri, Bihar, Akash’s love affair with cricket began when he could barely reach the stumps. Yet, when his father wasn’t quite on board with this cricket dream, the youngster packed his bags in 2010 and set off for Bengal.
“This is the result of whatever hard work I have done so far,” Akash told RevSportz. “The maximum one can do is work hard. Rest is luck or fate, whatever you call it. For a cricketer, 99 per cent is hard work. I have to continue to do whatever I have done so far and trust the process.”
But for Akash, what is the process?
“Process is something which leads you to success,” he said. “Process is something which everyone has to follow, not only a cricketer. Everyone has to follow a process in daily life and life in general. Success might come late, but the process should be followed.”
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Life threw curveballs at Akash, taking away his father, who battled with paralysis for five years, and brother in a span of six months. But this wasn’t a tale of defeat. It was a story of bouncing back with a bang. Back in Bengal, he used his tears as ink to write the next chapter of his cricketing saga.
When the BCCI announced the squad on Saturday, Akash was on the field manning the boundary for Bengal against Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram.
So when did he come to know about his maiden Test call-up?
“Laxmi sir (Laxmi Ratan Shukla) informed me at the ground,” he said. “I was fielding then, knowing nothing about what had happened. Suddenly, everyone started to clap. I asked them to let me know what happened and then they gave me the news. It’s a memorable day.”
Akash’s senior Bengal debut, across formats, came in 2019. Surprise, surprise – he wasn’t just a bowler. He swung the bat with a swagger that turned heads. The youngster found support from Arun Lal, Ranadeb Bose, Sourasish Lahiri and Joydeep Mukherjee, among others, in the Bengal set-up.
“You cannot come to this level without any support,” said Akash. “Someone has to stand up and show you the way. They became my guides. Arun Lal ji, Ranadeb Bose sir, Joydeep sir – each helped me out. Now, I am getting the chance to prove that they were right about me.”
Fast forward to 2022, and the Royal Challengers Bangalore bagged the medium-pacer for Rs 20 Lakh in the IPL auction. In six whirlwind matches, Akash started to make waves, taking seven wickets. His nippy action, ability to hit the deck and grit stood out.
In 29 First-class matches, Akash has taken 103 wickets with best figures of 6 for 60. He played for India ‘A’ in the three-match unofficial Test series against England Lions recently and took 13 wickets, the only pacer who shone from the home side. Despite missing out on a potential ODI debut in South Africa in 2023 after being picked in the squad, Akash’s Test call-up had the inevitability of a movie script.
Will the experience of being with the Indian ODI side in South Africa help the nerves if the team management decides to hand Akash the Test cap?
“South Africa was completely different,” he quipped. “Conditions, ball, everything is different there. Here, it is completely opposite. There won’t be any issue. I have played so many Ranji matches in the country, including two finals. I will use my Ranji experience if I get the chance. I can gather how the pitch will play after looking at it. Ranji experience.”
Adding a dash of camaraderie to the mix, Akash will reunite with his Bengal bowling partner, Mukesh Kumar. For the Cricket Association of Bengal, it is a proud moment to witness the names of both Mukesh and Akash in the Test squad.
“We speak regularly,” said Akash. “What will we do if we play for India together? Pressure, plans, atmosphere, the level. We have been playing together for years now, we have bowled in tandem for years now.”
So, now that he is in the squad, what is his dream?
“My dream will not be fulfilled only by wearing the Test whites,” said Akash. “It will be complete when I help India win matches. The day I start helping the team with winning contributions. My dream is to perform for India and help my country win.”
India take on England in the third Test in Rajkot, starting February 15.