Ask any child in Sasaram about Sher Shah Suri’s tomb and there will probably be one generic solution: “Humare yahaan ke raja ne Mughalon ko haraya tha aur duniya ki sabse badi sadak banayi thi (Our king had defeated the Mughals and built the longest road in the world).”
Sher Shah Suri, an Afghan warlord from Sasaram, defeated Mughal emperor Humayun on the Battle of Chausa in 1539. It used to be right through his reign that the well-known Grand Trunk Road, sometimes called Sher Shah Suri Road, used to be constructed.
Cut to the current, the medical institution nearest to Sasaram is in state capital Patna, 150 km away. And as a result of this distance, Bengal pacer Akash Deep, who hails from Dehri village in Sasaram, first misplaced his father in 2015 and, six months later, his elder brother. Both of them failed to achieve the medical institution in time after they wanted pressing clinical consideration. Years later, right through the vicious 2d Covid wave, whilst he used to be within the Indian Premier League bubble, he misplaced his aunt and sister-in-law whilst virtually dropping his mom.
“My father suffered a paralysis attack in 2010, was bedridden for five years, and passed away in 2015; six months later, my elder brother too passed away. In my native place, there is a dearth of medical facilities, I lost both of them due to medical negligence,” Akash Deep tells The Indian Express from Alur, forward of Bengal’s Ranji Trophy semifinal in opposition to Madhya Pradesh.
Over the final seven years, Akash Deep has long past thru so much. Trials, tribulations, reputation, accolades. “Apne gaon ki sadak jaisi journey rahi hai bilkul, ubad khabad (My journey has been like the road in my village, topsy-turvy),” he says.
‘Playing cricket a crime’
As a faculty instructor’s son, cricket used to be by no means an choice for Akash Deep. “Cricket khelna toh crime hai humare yahaan (Playing cricket in our part of the country is a crime). Even if you manage to sneak out and play, there are no facilities. Till 18, I had only played with a tennis ball,” the pacer remembers.
“My father was a teacher, and when he came to know that I play cricket, he passed his verdict saying that I won’t be able to do anything in my career. He was not entirely wrong, actually. There was no cricket in Bihar, and those who had tried their hand at cricket were left unemployed.”
Akash Deep’s first tryst with Kolkata maidan cricket happened in 2012. He used to be within the town to get his father some clinical consideration and controlled to play a couple of video games. Back then, he was a batsman, now not a quick bowler and the revel in, through his personal admission, used to be horrible.
“In Bihar, I was a proper batsman. I picked up bowling very late. When you face the red ball for the first time and that too without any practice, you will get exposed. So, I started bowling, and by 2015 I became a decent bowler. I had natural pace and used to get more bounce because of my height. I got selected for United Club in Bengal as a pure fast bowler,” says the 25-year-old.
The transfer to Bengal
In 2016, Akash Deep shifted to Delhi, the place his elder sister lived. He stayed there for a few months ahead of a chum requested him to come back to Kolkata and play membership cricket.
“Once my father passed away, the financial condition of my family was very bad. When I moved to Kolkata, I started playing local cricket, and was paid for it, which was quite new for me. Whatever money I used to earn, I tried to save as much as I could for my mother. But it used to be a nominal amount,” he says.
From dwelling with 4 roommates in a 12’x12’ room in Kolkata for 4 years to with the ability to play for the state, Akash Deep’s tale is an instance of human will overcoming hindrances.
“Kolkata is my home now. I have played for two clubs (United Club and Mohun Bagan), and never felt like an outsider. People love me and respect me a lot, and that is why I am able to perform well,” says Aakash Deep, who had a step forward Ranji season in 2019-20 claiming 35 wickets in 9 video games.
Arun Lal’s backing
Bengal head trainer Arun Lal charges his bowler extremely. “He has the potential to be a Rs 10 crore cricketer in the IPL. He can be a great prospect as an all-rounder in T20s, because of his six-hitting prowess. He just has to work on his self-belief,” says Lal.
In the new Ranji quarter-final in opposition to Jharkhand, the Bengal crew turned into the primary crew of which the highest 9 batsmen scored no less than 50 runs in a first class innings. Akash Deep smoked 53 now not out off simply 18 balls, together with 5 sixes.
“Arun Lal is like a father to me. He has played a big role in my development as a cricketer and a person. If not for him, I won’t have realised my potential also. And not only in cricket, he is my life coach too. No one has motivated me to do well more than Arun sir,” he says.
Losing members of the family to Covid
After becoming a member of Royal Challengers Bangalore as a web bowler for IPL 2021, issues didn’t cross easily for Akash Deep. He needed to depart mid-season as maximum of his circle of relatives used to be down with Covid.
“We were at practice at (Mumbai’s) Bandra-Kurla Complex when I got a call from home that my aunt was in quite a serious condition, as were my sister-in-law and mother. I returned to the hotel, hoping that the situation would improve. But after five days, my elder aunt passed away, and then my sister-in-law died too. My mother was in quite a critical condition too. I felt that I had to go back because family is very important,” he feels.
“After going home, I took care of my mother’s medicines, getting her injections. The hospital in Sasaram did not have anything – there were no doctors, no medicines. I arranged oxygen cylinders and injections myself. Thankfully, my mother recovered,” says Akash Deep, who used to be later drafted into the RCB squad for the second one part of the 2021 season rather than the injured Washington Sundar.
Before becoming a member of RCB, he had an extended dialog with Bengal veteran Manoj Tiwary, who instructed him to provoke Virat Kohli within the nets.
“Manoj bhaiyya said, ‘Virat is India’s captain, and if you manage to impress him, you will get to play in the IPL next season, and might play for India as well because you have all the ingredients to become a good fast bowler.’ That was my goal, and I managed to do well in the practice matches and was later picked in the auction,” says Aakash Deep.
Before receiving his IPL cap from Kohli, Akash Deep’s best possible cricketing reminiscence used to be observing MS Dhoni hitting the profitable six within the 2011 World Cup last. He says, “That World Cup moment stirred interest in me.”
“As a kid, when we used to watch the likes of Kohli and Dhoni on TV, I used to think whether I would ever get a chance to meet them in my life. In my mind, they were like superheroes. And from the place I come from, in my wildest imagination, I never thought that someday, I would end up sharing the dressing room with Kohli. Sab sapna hai (Everything is a dream),” says Akash Deep.
What shocked him probably the most used to be that after Kohli gave him his IPL cap, he shared his adventure with different teammates within the crew assembly.
“I was shocked that he knows where I am from, my journey, struggle and everything. While giving me the cap, he said, ‘You deserve to be here. Just keep doing what you have done in the past. Just enjoy yourself, stick to your process.’ It was a very emotional moment,” says Akash Deep.
Valuable pointers from Hazlewood
Akash Deep used to be on cloud 9 when RCB purchased Josh Hazlewood within the IPL public sale. The Australian fast is his hero and any individual who he has appeared as much as for a very long time.
“Entire IPL 2022 was a learning experience for me, and the moment we were out of the bubble, I followed Josh everywhere. I spent most of my time with him. It was surreal because I used to watch his bowling on YouTube and now I was bowling in tandem with him.”
“Most of the discussions used to be about fast bowling. The off-stump line, his mental strength, how he sets up batsmen, his game preparation, workload management, how to deal with injuries,” says Akash Deep.
“Josh told me that the Test cricket length will always be more effective. That off-stump line has given him so many wickets in all formats. My biggest takeaway was the way he stuck to his strength and waited for the batsmen to commit mistakes. Kabhi kabhi aisa lagta tha jaise wo chess khel raha hai batsman ke saath (Sometimes, it seemed like he was playing chess with batsmen),” he says.
Giving it again
Akash Deep has began a cricket academy in his village – a dream he at all times had behind his thoughts.
“There are 200 kids in my academy. The most satisfying aspect is that girls are also taking up the sport,” he says.
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“In our village, a boy playing cricket was not a good thing, forget about girls. I consider this as one of my achievements. I am able to change the thought process of people back home. Hopefully, a few of them will even go on to play at the professional level,” Akash Deep indicators off.