43 days, seven innings, 936 runs, including three double hundreds and a hundred. The last one month has seen nothing short of an extraordinary glut of runs for Punjab’s 19-year-old batsman Anmolpreet Singh. His unbeaten 252 against Services on Sunday made him the only batsman to hit two double hundreds in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season.
After scoring a 50 in the season opener against Himachal Pradesh, the youngster was asked to make way for Yuvarj Singh and play U-23 Col CK Nayudu Trophy. The demotion didn’t disappoint him as he hit a 202, the knock got him a quick recall to the Ranji squad. Meanwhile, Yuvraj had moved to National Cricket Academy at Bangalore.
Once back, Anmol made the Punjab No.4 spot his own, and how. In the next five innings, he had scores of 113, 267, 12, 40, 252*. “I wanted to make every opportunity count. In last couple of years I was scoring runs but wasn’t able to play Ranji Trophy. Punjab has India players, so it’s not easy to find a place in playing XI,” says Anmolpreet.
India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who has led Punjab in one of the games this season, informs that Anmolpreet missed out on a couple of triple-hundreds just because of the team’s declaration compulsions. “Even yesterday, when he made 252 not out, we wanted to declare and he couldn’t make 300. This guy has potential and he’s someone who likes to bat for long periods of time. He’s a correct player who has a lot of time on the ball but also has got all the shots in the book,” says Harbhajan.
Since his junior days, Anmolpreet is known to spend hours in the middle. He was awarded the MA Chidambaram Trophy for BCCI’s U-19 player of the year for 2014-15 where he amassed 1154 runs from nine Cooch Behar Trophy matches. He hit five hundreds during his breakthrough season which included a triple hundred and a double hundred.
“I always look at converting hundreds into big ones. For me, it’s about dividing the innings into phases. 50, 100, 150 and then so on. It’s more about playing with the patience of the bowler and making sure that I’m ready to punish the loose ball,” explains Anmolpreet who has scored 734 runs in six Ranji Trophy innings.
Harbhajan believes the youngster’s greatest strength is adjusting to every challenge that comes his way. “He’s got a good defence and a solid technique and he’s someone who assesses the conditions. He adjusts his stance and his style to tackle the swing. We’ve played on green tops and what happens on such wickets is that even a chota mota bowler can become a Dennis Lillee. He could be someone like Ajinkya Rahane, talented, shy and very calm,” he says.
Anmolpreet, who idolises Virat Kohli, has managed to keep his strike rate in the early 80s. His batting approach is dictated by match situation and not per-meditated intent to be positive.
“He reminds me of Wasim Jaffer. Whenever he would score 100, from 100 to 200 he would go at such a speed, you blink your eye and he would be on 140 and blink another time, you see him on 200. They deal in boundaries. He’s a todu batsman against spin. He can be a big hitter as well. Yesterday he hit the fast bowler over cover for six from the backfoot. It’s good to see such talent coming through,” explains Harbhajan.
Anmolpreet was part of India’s 2016 U-19 World Cup squad and scored a 72 against Sri Lanka in the semis. He was also picked in Board President XI squad for the warm-up match against touring Sri Lanka. Captains and coaches have often spoken about the teenager maturity. “I look for a young batsman to be responsible and to then take on any responsibility given to him. And when he’s batting, the dressing-room is calm. You can’t ask for much more from someone so young,” says Harbhajan.
Punjab, with 15 points from five matches, are unlikely to reach the knockout rounds of the Ranji Trophy in what has been an indifferent season for them. Anmolpreet, however, couldn’t have asked for more from what turned out to be a memorable debut season.