Few Indian sportspersons have switched tracks from one sport to a completely different one like Brainder Singh Sran. Fewer still have done it as successfully as this Punjab left-arm seamer, who, by his own admission, was once not just another boy pursuing a career in boxing; he was an up-and-coming one at India’s punching nursery — Bhiwani.
In 2009, when he was just 17 years old, Brainder — a cricket fanatic — was desperate to make something of himself. Living in Sirsa, the boxing academy in nearby Bhiwani allowed him to channelise his youthful energy in a positive way. Not long after he had enrolled to become a pugilist, Brainder realised that he was pretty good at it.
“I picked up the sport really quickly,” says Brainder. “What took most kids six months to learn, I mastered in a couple of months.” That knack of his caught the attention of Jagdish Singh, a coach who has honed several Olympic level talents, such as 2008 bronze medallist Vijender Singh. In fact, Brainder, weighing 75 kilos back then, found himself in the same weight category as India’s most famous pugilist.
“With Jagdish sir spending more time with me, I began improving drastically. He made sure that I trained hard and prepared thing like my diet charts and training schedule as well. And because I was a left-hander, he was sure that I would go on to do something big in the sport,” he says.
A renowned name, he perhaps might have become. But just a year into his coaching, Brainder fled Bhiwani without informing his coach. Why, you ask. Because the cricket fanatic saw something of an opportunity, when the Kings XI Punjab announced a talent hunt in Mohali, back in 2010. Coach Jagdish, as you would have guessed by now, was not a happy man.
“He is yet to speak to me since,” says Brainder. “His anger is justified as I just left suddenly without even informing him. He had done so much for me including the fact that I had been selected into the SAI training programme, where I could have stayed with the national-level boxers and trained. But I chose cricket, my passion, and decided to leave.”
A door may have shut on one career but much to Brainder’s delight, another one had opened. Just two days after the trials at the talent hunt ended, Brainder made it to the IPL franchise’s probables, courtesy his sharp in-swingers and terrific speed. Although KXIP didn’t come through in the long run, Brainder had impressed many with his talent, including state-level coaches and more importantly, the selectors of the Punjab Cricket Association.
To date, Brainder has represented Punjab in first-class cricket in four matches, all of which arrived in 2011. Just when he was making a name for himself with as many as 14 wickets to his name, the fast bowler injured his thumb. He hasn’t played Ranji Trophy since, but was included in Punjab’s Vijay Hazare Trophy side during the North Zone leg of the ongoing event.
“It took me a year to heal my thumb. But I was not disheartened, because I know it takes at least four-five years at this level to grow into a decent fast bowler,” he says. “At just 21, I still have time on my side.”
So what are his plans for the rest of this season, which has already reached its fag end? “Once the season gets over, I am thinking to go back to Bhiwani to meet Jagdish sir,” he says. “It will help mend broken bridges and with my fitness.” Won’t coach Jagdish, though, have a problem with that plan of his? “Yes. But I don’t think he will recognise me instantly. Four years is a long time. But when he does, I know that he will be really angry,” he says, chuckling.