Mandeep Singh would have counted himself unlucky on missing out on selection for the India A side,that toured the West Indies,despite scoring heavily for both Punjab and North Zone in various domestic competitions the last season.
Mandeep,who was the vice-captain of the Indian Colts team in the U-19 World Cup in New Zealand in 2010,has not only made a tremendous shift to first-class cricket,but has changed the fortunes for the Kings XI Punjab in IPL-5 with some impressive knocks at the top of the batting order. In Adam Gilchrist’s absence,Mandeep though not as explosive as the former Aussie keeper,has given good starts to the team. Such has been his form with the bat that after Shaun Marsh (290 runs),Mandeep is the second highest scorer for the Punjab team with 284 runs under his belt.
Not making to the India A team has not deterred this 21-year-old from dreaming big. Taking everything in his stride,Mandeep,currently on a rollercoaster ride with the Kings,tells Sportline,”Cricket is my passion and life. My job is to do well in any format that I play. I have put in lots of hard work and tried to improve my game with every match in which I play. With Vikram Rathore paaji’s guidance,my game has reached another level. It was because of him that I could do well last season for Punjab. As far as India A team selection goes,yes I am disappointed,but this is not end of the road for me. I am enjoying my cricket.”
“With every IPL match,I am getting huge exposure. I am interacting with players like Adam Gilchrist and David Hussey and trying to excel my game. After IPL,the next season is around the corner. I would again aim to perform well for my state in the upcoming season and score lots of runs,” he added. Mandeep had injured his finger in the beginning of IPL 4 last year and missed almost the whole tournament. However,Mandeep did make redemption for the lost opportunities last season by scoring heavily in the domestic tournaments. With 458 runs in five Ranji matches at an average of 76.33,Mandeep also did well in the Irani Trophy,Challenger Trophy and Duleep Trophy teams. Owing to Mandeep’s exploits,Punjab made it to final of the Syed Mushtaq Ali cricket tournament,where he emerged as the top-scorer with 268 runs in nine matches.
Mandeep usually bats one down or two down in domestic tournaments,but opening the innings for KXIP in the ongoing IPL has been a different and successful experience. Mandeep said about his role as an opener: “I am always more comfortable in facing fast and swing bowlers. I like to go for my shots while facing quick bowlers. And when you face world renowned quick bowlers like Shaun Tait,Zaheer Khan or Brett Lee,your confidence gets a boost. Being promoted up the order is an opportunity as it gives me chances to score,” says theJalandhar-born Mandeep.
He might have won matches for KXIP in IPL due to his exploits with the willow,but Mandeep still feels that he needs to convert the 30s,40s into match-winning knocks of 70s and 80s. “No doubt I am getting good starts and I am hitting the ball well,but I need to convert these innings into big scores. There are plenty of games still left in the tournament. I am working on converting my knocks into match-winning scores and I hope I can do that and leave an impression,” says Mandeep. Mandeep is known to be the best among the young talents in India who bat with immense control on the backfoot.
Praising Mandeep,his stand-in captain David Hussey,said,”He is a confident cricketer who is always keen on working hard and looking to contribute with his batting. He has been very good for us while batting as an opener in the last few games.” Mandeep hammered 30-ball 43 runs against RCB last week to hand KXIP a thrilling win in Bangalore.
With such talent and yearning,one might see Mandeep scripting his own IPL success story and knocking on the Indian team for a berth,like his Punjab team mate Rahul Sharma did last IPL season while playing for Pune Warriors.