After Punjab's 10-wicket win over Kerala at the IS Bindra PCA Stadium, 21-year-old leg-spinner Mayank Markande rushed to the dressing room for a quick snack before heading to the practice nets installed quickly by the groundsmen. With Yuvraj Singh and Anmolpreet Singh opting for a practice session, Markande too bowled some overs. While the PCA wicket assisted pace bowlers, which saw Siddharth Kaul, Manpreet Singh Gony and Baltej Singh picking up two wickets each during Kerala's second innings, Markande's four scalps meant Kerala could only give Punjab a target of 127 runs, which was easily achieved by Punjab openers Shubman Gill and Jiwanjot Singh for a seven-point victory.
It is Markande's debut Ranji Trophy season and along with the Punjab pacers, he dented Kerala's hopes with his second spell of the day from the Pavilion End. The youngster from Bathinda, who now trains in Patiala, gave only eight runs in his six overs and picked three wickets as Kerala lost their last seven wickets for only 88 runs.
"The main challenge was to vary the pace on such a green track. The wicket slowed down a bit today but it was still assisting the pacers. My focus was to restrict the runs and with the variations in this wicket, I concentrated on bowling more leg-spin and getting the ball to spin off the wicket," said Markande.
For somebody who initially wanted to be a fast bowler, Markande started leg-spin 11 years ago under coach Mahesh Inder Singh, father of former India all-rounder Reetinder Singh Sodhi, before training under coach Munish Bali. The youngster would make his mark by becoming the highest wicket-taker with 25 and 35 wickets in the U-19 Cooch Behar Trophy in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 respectively.
The 2018 IPL saw Markande picking up three wickets in his debut match for Mumbai Indians, removing Chennai Super Kings' Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni and Deepak Chahar. Markande finished the IPL with 15 wickets in 14 matches.
This Ranji season saw him picking five wickets on his debut against Andhra Pradesh, apart from scoring a half-century, and the leg-spinner now has 25 wickets from five matches.
"I wanted to be a fast bowler initially before Mahesh Inder Singh sir told me to try leg-spin. Later when I shifted to train under Munish Bali sir, I would also focus on other variations as the googly came naturally to me. Bali sir made me work on my leg-spin and also on my batting. Playing in the IPL and then making my debut in Ranji Trophy helped my confidence. Having seniors like Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh in the dressing room also helps a young spinner like me," says Markande.
The young spinner missed two matches for Punjab this season as he was part of the India team for the Emerging Teams Asia Cup in Colombo in December. Markande claimed 12 wickets in four matches. "Playing for India at any age-group or tournament is a morale-booster. The Asia Cup was a good learning experience for me. Getting the Man of the match award against Pakistan and Oman means a lot. The wickets in Sri Lanka were bit on the slower side and as a bowler, I had to try more variations when we were bowling second," shared Markande.
Punjab skipper Mandeep Singh too rates Markande highly. "If Mayank had not gone to Sri Lanka and missed the two matches, the situation would have been different for our team. He has been the biggest positive for us this season and the way he handled pressure is commendable. Even when he goes out to bat, I know that he can win the match for us with his batting. He can handle pressure and with the pacers, he was a threat in this match too," Mandeep said.
Brief scores: Kerala 121 & 223 all out (Mohammed Azharuddeen 112, Vishnu Vinod 26; Mayank Markande 4/56, Manpreet Singh Gony 2/20, Siddharth Kaul 2/65, Baltej Singh 2/73) lost to Punjab 217 and 131 for no loss in 27.4 overs (Shubman Gill 69 not out, Jiwanjot Singh 48 not out).