Rohtas to Ranchi: Deep's sensational journey from adversity to triumph

Rohtas to Ranchi: Deeps sensational journey from adversity to triumph

Ranchi: Laduma Devi was busy overseeing the construction of their family house in Baddi village of Bihar's Rohtas district when she received a call...

Ranchi: Laduma Devi was busy overseeing the construction of their family house in Baddi village of Bihar's Rohtas district when she received a call from Akash Deep on Thursday. "Ma, I'm making my Test debut for India tomorrow, you have to come".

Hours later, after a gruelling 300km road journey, she was at Ranchi's JSCA stadium, watching with pride and tears in her eyes as head coach Rahul Dravid handed the coveted cap to the pacer, who made an immediate impression with three top-order England wickets in the ongoing fourth Test.

The shy but stoic woman was soaking it all in with Akash Deep's two nieces and his cousin Baibhaw Kumar providing her support in the emotionally overwhelming moment. She and the family had been through hell and back but Akash Deep was finally making it all count.

"His father always wished for him to become a government officer, but cricket was his true passion, and I was his partner in crime. I would secretly send him to play cricket and help him pursue his dream," the proud mother told PTI as she watched her son make a sensational debut. <"During that time, if someone heard that your son was playing cricket, they would say 'yeh toh awara mawwali hi banega (he is spoilt and will become a rogue). But we had the faith in him and didn't let him give up despite losing my malik (husband) and beta (son) in six months," she said, pain still apparent in her shaky voice as she grappled with a surge of emotions.

Akash Deep's father Ramji Singh, a physical education teacher in a Government High School, never wanted him to become a cricketer. He was paralysed after retirement and was bed-ridden for five years before breathing his last in February 2015.

In the October of the same year, Akash Deep's elder brother Dhiraj died on his way to a hospital in Varanasi following brief illness, leaving behind two daughters and wife.

"If his father and brother were alive today, they would be brimming with joy. This is the life's most memorable day and only few are lucky to see it. I'm the proudest mom on this earth," Laduma Devi said, tears rolling down her eyes.

"Sab bolte hain, padhoge likhoge banoge nawab; kheloge, kudoge banoge kharab. Yeh toh ulta ho gaya. (They say those who study become kings, and those who play end up spoilt. But it's the opposite in our case)." The 27-year-old was as self-assured as a seasoned pro as he blew away the English top order in the first hour's play to leave the visitors reeling at 112/5 at lunch. There were no nerves to be seen, and why would there be, Akash Deep had known and handled bigger challenges than England's 'Bazball' much earlier in life. With the family reliant on his father's monthly pension, he had thought of giving up his passion for cricket and focus on finding a stable income.

The youngest among six siblings with three elder sisters, Akash Deep briefly dabbled in sand selling business by renting dumpers near Sone river at the Bihar-Jharkhand border after Dhiraj's death.

He would also play tennis ball cricket at that time and needed a helping hand to keep his cricketing dream alive. His cousin Baibhaw, whose father works at Durgapur Steel Plant allowing him access to coaching in leather ball cricket, proved to be just the man. "I always felt he was god-gifted and I took him to Durgapur where we got his passport made and he went on to play a tournament in Dubai," Baibhaw recalled.

The the duo landed in Kolkata in search of better opportunities and stayed in a rented flat in Kestopur. But life didn't become easy with the shift as Akash Deep was rejected by three clubs -- United CC, YMCA and the famous Kalighat.

"They said to wait for one more year as their team was out. I thought he would go back. But UCC called him one day saying they would play him without any pay," Baibhaw said. Akash Deep's rise started from UCC as he grabbed 42 wickets in his maiden season in Kolkata Maidan (2017-18). He subsequently got a chance in the CK Nayudu Trophy for Bengal, which went on to win that year. He was also picked as a net bowler for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL that was held in the UAE during the COVID-19 disruption and was eventually signed by RCB.

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