IPL stint with Mumbai Indians improved me: Mayank Markande
Mayank Markande made waves during his first IPL season. © AFP

In the last 15 months Punjab’s Mayank Markande made his List A, T20 and first-class debuts and is now on the cusp of an international debut – after being named in India’s T20I squad for the home series against Australia, starting February 24.

All this after he was dropped from his state’s Under-23 squad in 2017. That was the time Markande started to doubt himself. But his coach Munish Bali, assistant coach of India’s Under-19 team in 2008, helped his pupil keep his focus.

“In 2017, he was not selected for an Under-23 match and he was very much disappointed,” Bali tells CricketCountry. “We were going to the ground for practice and his morale was down, but I told him he has to keep working hard and trust his process and results will come.”

And exactly a year later Bali, now coach of the Andhra senior team, met Markande and beamed, “I told you so”.

During that one-year period, Markande took five wickets in the 2017-18 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, followed by ten wickets in the 2017-18 Vijay Hazare Trophy. He went for IPL trails and impressed the former India international and Mumbai Indians manager Rahul Sanghvi. Next, he was picked for Mumbai Indians and played 14 matches from which he claimed 15 wickets.

Success for Mumbai Indians boosted Markande's confidence.
Success for Mumbai Indians boosted Markande’s confidence.

Markande then scalped 13 wickets at 21.07 in the 2018-19 Vijay Hazare Trophy to get selected for the India Emerging Team at the Asian Cricket Council Emerging Teams Cup, where he finished as the highest wicket-taker.

But for Markande, the best of this dream run was the IPL stint with Mumbai Indians.

“I had gone to the trails for Mumbai Indians and there Rahul Sanghvi sir noticed me, in fact, he was the one to call me up and tell me about the auction pick,” Markande tells CricketCountry. “And the biggest learning for me as a bowler came after being a part of the Mumbai Indians setup. Rohit [Sharma] bhai’s presence was a confidence booster for me and there were youngsters from different parts of India and I learned a lot there.”

Markande was an unknown entity before the IPL, but made a splash on debut against Chennai Super Kings claiming 3/23 in four overs. The rest, as the say, is history.

“In the IPL my mental skills improved, according to me, there is not much you can do in terms of improving your skills at this level,” Markande explains. “It was more reading the situations, performing well under pressure. Sanghvi sir was a big influence for me as he was also a left arm spinner; he worked on me and he was there with me right from the first match and playing all the matches helped me improve as a bowler.”

Bali also feels that Markande gained a lot from one IPL season.

Markande’s improvement post the IPL stint was evident to his coach, Munish Bali. © AFP

“Playing for Mumbai Indians really helped him to come to the limelight,” he says. “He had done so well in the Vijay Hazare prior to that, and in the IPL he showcased his talent in the very first match and took MS Dhoni’s wicket – he played among the best in the world and he managed to held him own, so that was big boost for him.”

But once the glitz of the IPL was over, it was time for Markande to continue the process. While he was disappointed at not being picked for the Deodhar Trophy, reward came in the form of the Emerging Team call-up where he was among the wickets. Back in the Ranji Trophy, Markande finished as the highest wicket-taker for Punjab grabbing 29 wickets in six matches.

That opened the doors, not only for India A selection but for more learning – this time in the form of another former India international and leg spinner, Narendra Hirwani.

“I got to interact with Narendra Hirwani sir and he gave me some valuable tips about my bowling. For me getting this kind of exposure at this early age was really helpful,” says Markande.

When the opportunity presented itself, the youngster was quick to seize it. On the day he got his maiden India call-up, he picked up 5/34 against England Lions for India A. However, he knows this is a start and he now needs to compete with the likes of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal for a spot in the India XI.

“It has been just over two years for me in cricket at this level, and to reach here so early is a big thing for me. I know Kuldeep bhai, Yuzi bhai and I have bowled with them in the nets also,” he says. “I don’t see them as my competition; they have always helped me out whenever I have been able to talk to them, but I know I have to improve my mental skills to be at their level.”