Player Profile - Mukesh Narula
In the build-up to the Over-50s Cricket World Cup, we have been looking at players who are likely to have an important impact for their team at the tournament.
Our final profile is of Canada’s Mukesh Narula.
Despite being 57, Narula is a newbie in the Canadian Over-50s side. However, he is their most experienced player in terms of First-Class cricket, having played 57 matches in India for Baroda and West Zone between 1985 and 1996, as well as 19 List-A games.
In the early stages of his career he hardly bowled, but his batting was good enough to warrant selection for Baroda (Baroda Cricket Association) in the mid-1980s. He scored his maiden First-Class century in just his fourth game, followed by centuries in each of the next two seasons.
It wasn’t until 1989 that he started bowling regularly, and he was Baroda’s leading wicket-taker that season with his medium pacers. Perhaps one of his most important wickets was that of Saurav Ganguly to secure the win for West Zone in the final of the Duleep Trophy. Narula’s team-mates in that team included Ravi Shastri, Sanjay Manjrekar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli - a handy side!
Narula was a key strike bowler for Baroda over the next few seasons and ended with 104 First-Class wickets to go with his 2 373 runs, both at an average in the low-30s.
He then moved into coaching, emigrated to Canada in 2011, and immediately became involved with Cricket Canada. He coached the national side for a spell starting in 2014, was a batting consultant for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL, and was the Head of Cricket Operations for the recent GT20 Canada tournament, held in Toronto. He has also been a TV anchor and cricket commentator.
Cricket-wise, he plays regularly in Toronto, where almost all of the Canadian side are based. He participates in the newly formed Over-45s league and also plays for his club side, the Toronto Lumberjacks.
Narula believes that Canada will have a good all-around side. “Our strength will be the balance of our team. We have very good batters, spinners and medium fast bowlers. Another very important aspect is that we all have been playing cricket at various levels quite regularly. We have been practising together for the last three months.”
From a personal perspective, Narula believes that - like most Over-50s players, presumably - his experience will be an advantage. “The fact that I am a coach has also helped to improve several aspects of my own batting.” He expects that his role will be primarily as a batsman, as it was at the start of his career. “I used to bowl quite fast but now I focus on my batting.”
During his playing days, Narula had a reputation as a fiery character. He admits that this is true - “I still play the game very hard” - but also that “outside the boundary line I have always been a very friendly person, that still remains.” Having said that, he was quick to add: “Rest assured, I will not be giving an inch to our opponents!”
Impact: Whatever role he plays, he will add value to a Canadian side that showed an ability to tip over more fancied sides in Sydney, but perhaps lacked the composure to seal the deal. Narula’s big-match experience and renowned competitiveness could give Canada the belief it needs to cause some upsets.
By Jim Morrison