India vs Australia: Abhinav Mukund yearns for shot at redemption after escaping obscurity
Abhinav Mukund's ability is undoubted, but it will be his temperament and mental strength that will decide if he belongs to the highest level.
Abhinav Mukund. Remember him? Unless you are a keen follower of Indian cricket, it won’t be easy. Even for those with an avid interest in cricket in this country, it’s likely that Mukund's name would not instantly induce a rush of memories.
After all, his brief stint with the Indian team came in a series where they were whitewashed 4-0 by England in 2011 – something no Indian cricket fan would remember fondly.
In a series which saw a collective failure on India's part, Mukund scored a gutsy 49 at Lord's. Unfortunately for him, Virender Sehwag's return from injury in the third Test meant he was dropped. In the wake of the tumultuous series in England, Mukund's chance was gone. By contrast, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan were slightly luckier and were able to cement their places in the side.
In an interview to The Hindu recently, Mukund revealed that the disappointment of being dropped from the Tamil Nadu squad in 2013, just couple of years after his India omission, left him completely deflated. He lost all hope of donning the Indian jersey again and was even on the cusp of quitting the sport. However, vital intervention from a friend made him stay with the sport and today he stands a step away from a dream that seemed implausible back then.
The revival of the Tamil Nadu batsman however, isn't down to chance. Since being dropped from the national side, he has averaged below 40 just twice in domestic cricket and in 2016 he recorded his second-best season in terms of runs by scoring 1124 runs at an average of 62.44. With Dhawan suffering a loss of form, a window opened for Mukund and for once he had a shining performance which the selectors just could not ignore.
Mukund now is much more mature and a lot better prepared for the international stage by learning from the failings of his first stint. However, with KL Rahul and Vijay primed to open the innings for India, he may still have to wait for his opportunity. He will be hoping that Rahul who has been patchy off late continues to struggle and he gets his second chance.
In such a scenario, the 27-year-old must not let the occasion get to him. He will have to treat it as a normal situation and play according to his abilities. If he fails, he may never get this chance again, and hence he must bring all his experience into play. Unlike last time, he will have the comfort of playing at home and the familiar conditions could just get the best out of him. Speaking to The Hindu, he seemed in the perfect frame of mind.
“I have waited a long time for my opportunity. If I get a break in the eleven, I will just go there and cherish the occasion," Mukund told the newspaper.
In case India wrap up the series by the fourth Test, India skipper Virat Kohli could be tempted to give Mukund that chance. In that scenario, he might have to put in a really good performance to remain in the selectors' scheme of things. The pressure will be immense on Mukund if that chance comes to him, but for inspiration he needs to only look back to the journey he's had to get there.
His ability is undeniable, his First-Class career is a proof of that, but it will be his temperament and mental strength that will decide if he belongs to the highest level, and can stake a claim to stay there for a notable while. As of now he yearns for that one opportunity that will give him a platform to have a shot at redemption.
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