Disappointed Mongia determined to soldier on
It began as a club season with obscure Little Stoke in the Staffordshire League, and transformed itself into a glorious Lancastrian summer. Dinesh Mongia's season seemed to have reached its zenith when he was one of the front-runners to replace Sachin Tendulkar in the Champions Trophy squad and, for a few moments, believed he had actually been picked. But, then, he hit rock bottom.
The selectors had indeed initially chosen Mongia as the replacement, and he was asked to join the team at their London hotel on September 6. Minutes later, however, they rang him back and told him that there had been a mistake.
A crestfallen Mongia told Wisden Cricinfo it was a "communication gap", and wasn't willing to delve too much into the gory details. "I wouldn't want to say anything about that," he dead-batted. And asked about where he sees his career going from here, he was equally concise: "I can just do my bit, keep working hard and hope that the good times will come."
And there have been good times aplenty this season. Playing for Staffordshire against Lancashire early on, he not only impressed with the bat but also with his left-arm spin, including a caught-and-bowled dismissal of Stuart Law. Both Law and Carl Hooper, Lancashire's overseas players, then suffered injuries and Mongia was called up to fill in.
With some cracking performances in the County Championship and the Twenty20 Cup, in which he finished as the tournament's most economical bowler, Mongia made a significant impact. "It's been fantastic," he said. "It's a great feeling to play for such a big county and make such a difference. Unlike in India, we play almost six days a week. There is so much cricket to be played and you are always on your toes."
Mongia acknowledged the effect that Mike Watkinson, Lancashire's coach, has had on his bowling. "He really helped me out in that aspect. I have improved as a bowler now." He was also very flexible about his batting position: "I have done well at [both] the top and the middle order. I am willing to adapt to any situation. I see myself as more of an allrounder now."
Mongia's thrills spilled beyond the cricket when he was invited as a chief guest to the launch of a Indian restaurant, as he was a huge draw for Indians resident in England.
On March 8 this year, Mongia captained North Zone to a Duleep Trophy triumph and was considering the possibility of playing league cricket in England. Next week, he will return to India after his final game in Staffordshire. The six months in between turned out to be a heady period, but he certainly could have done without the Indian selectors' momentary lapse.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is on the staff of Wisden Cricinfo.