Life for Gurkeerat Singh Mann has transformed sharply within just six months in the Indian Premier League (IPL). The 21-year-old middle-order batsman from Faridkot has come a long way, from a promising junior to an exciting key component in Kings XI Punjab, sharing the dressing room with the likes of Adam Gilchrist and David Hussey in the on-going IPL 5.
Gurkeerat's moment of glory came when he smashed 29 off 12 balls to take his side to an improbable victory against Deccan Chargers. That cameo was enough for skipper Gilchrist to shortlist him for "international future" along with his Punjab opening batsman Mandeep Singh and fast bowler Parvinder Awana, who is from Delhi.
That match against Chargers was Gurkeerat's only second in the IPL 5, and he says that match-winning partnership with acting captain Hussey will stay with him for life.
"Hussey kept telling me, you are a champion and you can do it. I can't forget that moment. It was a huge thing for someone like me to bat alongside him," Gurkeerat told IANS, recalling how he hit his state-mate Manpreet Gony for two fours and a six to seal the game when Kings XI needed 16 off the last over.
Getting his first opportunity a month into the long tournament, Gurkeerat went on to become a regular in the side. He now hopes for a better IPL season next year.
"There are no guarantees in cricket, but the IPL stint has boosted my confidence in a big way. I never imagined playing with Gilly and working with so many international players and support staff," he said.
"Gilly kept on encouraging me even when I was on the bench, he told me to just be ready to grab the chance," said Gurkeerat, who was signed by Kings XI after a good showing in the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy earlier in the year.
Gurkeerat rose to prominence after becoming Punjab's most prolific batsman in the U-22 CK Nayudu Trophy. He amassed 490 runs in five games, contributing majorly to his team's triumph in the competition.
It is still early days in Gurkeerat's career. The IPL break has come at the right time and now he has set his sights on first-class cricket.
"I did well with the chances I got this year (IPL). From here on, the focus will be on domestic cricket and making my Ranji Trophy debut. It is fun to play T20 but it is important that I prove myself in the longer format, he said.
He took up the sport at the age of nine and honed his skills at the Punjab Cricket Association ground in Mohali, at a stone's throw from his house.
Asked about his most enjoyable moment in the IPL, Gurkeerat said: Facing Dale Steyn in Hyderabad, more incredible was hitting him for a four.
The IPL is currently in the news for all the wrong reasons, but it has certainly changed Gurkeerat's life - hopefully for good.