Lessons in life and cricket from Punjab's forgotten Test cricketer
There are certain heroes of Indian cricket who have not gotten the recognition they deserve. Gursharan Singh, the stalwart of Punjab cricket back in the 1980s and 90s is giving a lot back to cricket nowadays and is enjoying every minute of what he is doing. Currently set up in Delhi, his training academy for youngsters has been doing an exceptional job in producing young talent for the future.
Sportskeeda caught up with the former Indian cricketer and here are some of the excerpts from the interview.
“I started in 1995 after I retired and ours was the first academy in Delhi. I am very happy to give something back to the game. Many players from our academy have gone to play in the Ranji Trophy,” said a proud Gursharan Singh.
“But, we don’t just look at the fact about getting selected for the Ranji Trophy. At the younger ages of 12 and 13, we look to improve their fundamentals and basics. If their fundamentals are good, along with other factors like diet and lifestyle, they will become good players.”
“There are a lot of distractions in large cities, and that is why we see many cricketers playing for the country are from smaller cities. They are more hardworking, and there are fewer distractions,” added Gursharan.
Fielding is the most important aspect of the game
During the third Test between India and New Zealand in the recently concluded Test series which India won 3-0, Gautam Gambhir had come on as a substitute fielder and was placed at short leg.
Fans of the sport would surely remember Gursharan Singh’s historic moment fielding at this position in a Test match against the mighty West Indies back in 1983-84. He became the first fielder to take four catches as a substitute, and that record has stayed intact till date.
“A substitute is the 12th man and he is always made to stand at short leg because it is known as the suicidal position. Since the 11 who are playing cannot afford to get injured and the 12th man does not bat or bowl, he fields at short leg,” said Gursharan.
He went on to speak about how important fielding is in today’s game.
“Fielding is the most important. If you practice daily and take about 100 catches daily, you are bound to become a good fielder. Fielding is something that both the batsmen and bowlers have to do.”
“India should have won the first Test against England. One of the main reasons they didn’t was because of the 2-3 vital dropped catches in the first innings of the match,” said Gursharan.
Competition to get into the national side
Regarding his playing days, Gursharan himself was unfortunate not to get a decent chance to make a mark on the Indian side despite having an impressive batting average for the Punjab state team. Having played just one Test and one ODI for the national team, he was dropped after that and did not make another appearance on the big stage.
Speaking about the competition of breaking into the Indian side, Gursharan said it has become easier to get selected for the national team today than it was before given the fact that domestic cricketers are given a host of opportunities through various platforms such as the IPL and other numerous domestic leagues.
“Back then, I think the competition was very very difficult. Before the 1990s, there were a lot of superstars like Sunil Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath, and Yashpal Sharma, so it was very hard to get into the team. Also, most of the matches played were Test matches. ODIs came only in the 1970s. Now there is the IPL and a lot of T20 tournaments, getting into the Indian team is a bit easier today.”
The IPL has been a great platform for domestic cricketers to prove their worth and make their way into the national side. Interestingly, Ravichandran Ashwin, who is currently the world’s best bowler made his way to the Indian side due to his IPL performances back in 2010.
“He is one of the greats. I think he could become India’s highest wicket taker. He has the ability even to break Muralitharan's record. He still has a lot of years left, and as a spinner, he can go on to play till he is 36 or 37,” Gurshuran said about Ashwin.
About the Ranji Trophy and more
As Gursharan reminisced on his playing days and stint with the Punjab state team, he spoke about his career-defining knock in the 1988-89 season. As Bengal set up a massive first innings score of 594, no one would have expected Punjab to put up any sort of fight. But, Gursharan produced the innings of his life as he went on to score 298 not out. Unfortunately, he kept losing partners at the other end and Punjab were dismissed 43 runs short of Bengal’s score, and Gursharan was not able to get his triple century.
“It was a chance that I missed, but it was not in my hand. My colleagues tried their best to stay at the crease. We were chasing around 600 and were 110-5. I had a partnership of 340 runs with Krishnan Mohan, but in the end, we lost out by a few runs. It's all part and parcel of the game,” said Gursharan about the memorable match.
As the 2016-17 edition of the Ranji Trophy has already given us a lot to ponder upon, he gave his views on whether he thinks Yuvraj Singh has it in him to make another comeback to the national side. Yuvraj has been in sublime touch, scoring 672 runs at an average of 84 in 5 matches for Punjab this season.
“It’s a bit difficult, but if you see Gautam Gambhir, he made a comeback, so Yuvi also can. It will be hard for him to make a comeback to the Test side, but he can make a comeback into the ODI and T20 side,” feels Gursharan.
He also heaped praise on youngster Rishabh Pant and said that he would go on to be the best performer of this edition of the Ranji Trophy, “As a batsman, I think he has an excellent chance to break into the Indian team, but he still has to improve upon his wicket keeping ability. It is good that he plays attacking and has not changed his natural game. He is an exceptional player.”
“Playing for the country is not easy. You have to prepare yourself first. The main thing is that you have to be a good human being and you can become a good cricketer. Perfect practice makes a better player. You should just enjoy the game. If your prepare well and enjoy the game, everything will come to you,” was his final message to the youngsters of this country.