The boy who was born to play cricket

Dream, and you shall become!

When the Indian Premier League (IPL) was launched in 2008, Mayank Markande was all of 10 years old. And, then, he dreamt. And dreamt big. Fast-forward to 2018, and the leg-spinner is not just playing in the tournament, but is also the leading wicket-taker in the opening week.

In two games, he has dismissed Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni, Deepak Chahar, Wriddhiman Saha, Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey and Shakib Al Hasan for combined returns of 8-0-46-7. These are the kind of figures bowlers would give their right arm for. Only 20, Markande’s performances and poise belie his age. If not for that crop of beard, you would be tempted to call him a ‘baby-faced assassin’.

His mother, Santosh Sharma, is obviously over the moon. “All he wanted to do as a boy was play cricket. Even now, he only plays cricket in his free time,” she gushes. Watching her son on the telly makes her heart swell with pride. “I am very, very happy, My son has finally got a big platform to prove himself,” she adds.

Father Bikram Sharma is no less thrilled. “He was obsessed with the game. He would somehow get me to play with him either in the house or on the terrace. Sometimes I would bowl to him and sometimes he would bowl to me. Eventually, I decided to send him to an academy,” he recalls.

And that’s when Mahesh Inder Singh Sodhi came into the picture. A respected coach in Patiala, Sodhi is the father of former India all-rounder Reetinder Singh Sodhi. It was Sodhi Sr. who advised Markande to give up fast bowling and switch to leg-spin. “He used to bowl the back-of-the-hand slower one with ease. So, I thought of making him a right-arm leg-break bowler. After all, the googly came to him naturally. I didn’t have to teach him how to bowl it. And look at him now. He just dismissed MS Dhoni a few days ago. The whole world is scared to bowl to Dhoni. I was very happy when Mayank dismissed him. And he told me he had planned the dismissal. He bowled the googly on purpose,” Sodhi says.

Markande has a long way to go. But he’s already an integral part of the spin attack. The key, of course, is to churn out consistent performances and win games for MI.

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