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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

After hauling Chandigarh to its maiden Ranji Trophy victory, Gurinder Singh recalls his journey

The left-arm spinner emerged as the third-highest wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy last year with a total of 45 wickets in Meghalaya colours.

Written by Nitin Sharma | Chandigarh | Published: December 12, 2019 2:02:58 pm
Gurinder Singh took six wickets against Arunachal Pradesh. (Express Photo by Jasbir Malhi)

The 27-year-old all-rounder Gurinder Singh bagged his first five-wicket haul in Chandigarh jersey Wednesday, as he claimed six wickets for 50 runs against Arunachal Pradesh to guide Chandigarh to their first win in Ranji Trophy plate group at Sector 16 Stadium. Singh claimed three out of the last four Arunachal wickets as Chandigarh only needed 9.3 overs to bundle out the visitors and score a win by an innings and 173 runs.

In 2000, a young Singh traveled from his hometown, Mansa in Punjab, to Chandigarh to appear for cricket trials at the Sector 16 Stadium. He stayed at his maternal uncle Malkiat Singh’s home in Sector 22 and was selected to train at the stadium to hone his skills under coach Harish Sharma.

The coming years saw Singh plying his trade for Punjab, apart from playing in Ranji Trophy plate group teams of Tripura and Meghalaya. The left-arm spinner emerged as the third-highest wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy last year with a total of 45 wickets in Meghalaya colours.

“I still remember the day when I came for trials at the Sector 16 stadium. While my father played football for Punjab, I wanted to be a cricketer and asked my maternal uncle Malkiat Singh to take me for trials. After I got selected to train at the stadium, my maternal grandmother Pritam Kaur would come with me to the stadium and waited for me until my practice ended. Before Chandigarh got the BCCI affiliation, I was in talks with teams like Tripura, Sikkim, and Meghalaya, to join one of the teams this year. I was playing in England for Smethwick Cricket Club when I got the news of the UTCA getting affiliation and I decided to play for Chandigarh. To take a five-wicket haul here feels special and I am glad I could play a part in the team’s maiden win in Ranji Trophy,” said Singh, whose father Rajpal Singh is a fire officer in Ropar.

While a young Singh honed his skills at Sector 16 stadium, the following years also saw him make it to the Punjab U-14, U-16, U-19, and U-22 teams. Singh was a part of the U-19 NCA camp four times and was also in the U-19 ICC World Cup probables. He made his List A debut for Punjab against Delhi at Mohali in the Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2011, in which he claimed one wicket.

He made his T20 debut against Baroda at Indore in 2013 in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 trophy. While Singh played for Punjab in Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the youngster did not get a chance for the Ranji Trophy team and opted to play for Tripura in 2016 and played for the state in 2017 too.

Last year, Singh made a switch to Meghalaya and claimed 45 wickets apart from scoring 405 runs. He had four five-wicket hauls apart from three four-wicket hauls and scored one century.

“Playing for Punjab U-14, U-16, U-19 and U-22 teams gave me a lot of confidence and helped me in Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy as well. However, I did not get a chance in the Punjab team in the Ranji Trophy team. So I decided to play for Tripura. Last year, I joined Meghalaya and being the third-highest wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy, with 45 wickets, boosted my confidence. I have been also been working on my batting and to score more than 400 runs last year in Ranji Trophy made me believe that I could score runs at this level. Playing in the Birmingham Premier Division club cricket in England this year too made me understand the different conditions. Such experiences help a lot,” he shared.

Singh had not taken wickets during Arunachal Pradesh’s first innings, but a pep talk with Chandigarh coach VRV Singh lifted him. “I have played a lot at this stadium and understand the conditions here well. When I did not pick any wicket in the first innings, coach VRV Singh asked me to remain focused and bowl according to my plan. As the wicket was helping the batsman, I tried variations in my bowling. When I used to play for Punjab, I would also ask Harbhajan Singh for tips and that has helped me a lot. My aim will be to play my role in Chandigarh’s next matches and help the team win,” Singh said.

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