It takes special ability to restrain oneself under pressure, with all the adrenaline rushing through one’s veins. But somehow 25-year-old Gurkeerat Singh Mann relishes and thrives in these conditions. So, last Friday, when Mann walked into the middle in Chidambaram stadium in Chennai, India A were fighting with their back against the wall. Chasing a modest target of 227 set by Australia A, India were wobbling at 82 for 4. What came next was a glimpse of Gurkeerat’s talent and ability, which forced the Kings XI Punjab franchisee to shell out Rs 1.30 crore at this year’s IPL auctions.
“The target was modest and so the plan was to keep things simple and look to deal in one’s and two’s and keep the scoreboard ticking. We had to keep our nerves and Kedar Jadhav was the attacking batsman at the other end. So, it gave me enough time to settle down. We had to get the partnerships going and I am glad that Axar Patel and later Sanju Samson were there to help seal a memorable win,” said Gurkeerat, who also took two wickets for 42 runs in the final match. His unbeaten 87 off 85 balls, studded with seven fours and two maximums, guided the team home. To put the icing on the cake, Gurkeerat sealed the memorable win with a maximum of spinner Adam Zampa in the 44th over.
Digging his team out of trouble is something that comes naturally to Gurkeerat. Playing at number 5, a key position for Punjab in Ranji Trophy, Gurkeerat has emerged as a lynchpin in his state’s scheme of things.
“Batting with tailenders and last recognised batsmen is something that I have been doing for Punjab. That experience also helped me in the final. We also picked our targets and so instead of targeting bowlers like Nathan Coulter-Nile and Ashton Agar, who were bowling really well, we focused on others to get the runs. It always feels good to do well for the country and contribute in the team’s victory. I am happy that I got a chance and I measured up to the task,” said the youngster.
Gurkeerat started as a number 3 for Punjab, but eventually shifted down the batting order as per the need of the team. “For me the team and its needs come first. I am not greedy for batting positions and my main aim is to contribute in team’s success. Punjab needed somebody to bat at number 5, which is a sort of bridge between the tailenders and the batsmen. I am glad that I could bring stability to the side. However, I would love to bat up the order in T20 cricket. You see I seldom got a chance in this year’s IPL,” he said.
Gurkeerat, who resides near the stadium as a young boy, picked up the game by watching other children practising at the PCA stadium. “In the evening while cycling around the block, I would see players training and that got me interested. Sometimes, I used to sit and watch. Eventually, I enrolled myself at the age of nine,” Gurkeerat recalled, whose father Rupinder Singh Mann, works at Punjab Mandi Board.
Rising steadily, he represented Punjab in the Cooch Behar and Vinoo Mankad tournaments at the under-19 level and was also part of the Punjab under-22 team which won the 2011 CK Nayudu Trophy. A superb outing in the 2011-12 Vijay Hazare Trophy helped Gurkeerat land a lucrative contract with KXIP. Here too, the youngster managed to hog the limelight in his second outing, scoring a 12-ball 29 to help Punjab pull off an unlikely win over the now defunct Deccan Chargers.
For Gurkeerat, his major take away from that final was not the accolades and awards but a sane advice that Rahul Dravid gave him after the game. “He walked up to me and told me never to forget the feeling. In fact, he was very helpful all through the series. He would spot something in my batting during the practice session and guide me. All through the series he would discuss my role in the team and tell me how important it is to be ready as I had to bat as well as bowl,” Gurkeerat said.