Remember Manpreet Singh Gony? The tall Punjab pacer was among the first domestic players to find stardom in the Indian Premier League (IPL). A contract with the Chennai Super Kings and some fine performances in the league’s first two seasons in 2008-9 made him an interesting subject for the media.
Eight years on, after losing his way in cricket and beset with trouble on the personal front, Gony is battling to come back from anonymity, picking up the pieces.
Gony’s Twitter profile is a hub of information that has less to do with updates on cricket and more about road trips on his Harley Davidson. Photos of the player with funky hairstyles and a thick beard abound.
Scratch beneath the surface
The posts might suggest Gony is enjoying life to the fullest. That isn’t exactly true, however. His profile is a façade, hiding the turmoil beneath. Scratch the surface and the 6’4” pacer opens up.
Going away and making a comeback is something already associated with Gony. After the 2013 IPL, Gony was missing from action for a year. He returned in 2014 for Punjab and did well. A year on, Gony again went missing after his last game for Punjab in January 2015 against Odisha at Mohali, picking just two wickets. Form dipped and trouble on the personal front affected his decision-making. He went to the US, giving up on his cricket career.
“I was fickle-minded because my life was upset at the personal front and there was a lot of pressure on me,” said Gony, who is embroiled in a divorce suit with his wife Manpreet Kaur. “I was not able to concentrate on the game. So I thought of moving away from India,” he said.
Going out of favour
Missing out on an IPL contract hurt him financially. He last drew an IPL salary in 2013. “I had financial problems in India. Surviving without playing at a certain level was getting very difficult. So I thought by going abroad, I will be able to earn good money and life could get back on track, but it wasn’t to be.”
Gony’s two-match ODI career, against Hong Kong and Bangladesh, was enough to get him decent money in the US. “I was playing matches on the weekends to earn my living. They paid me well for playing professional tournaments and I was able to pay my bills,” he said.
However, he always felt he could do much better in India. Improved fitness and added experience gave him the confidence to leave US. “But life wasn’t smooth and I realised I wasted two years of my career.
“It took me two years to overcome my fickle-mindedness. This time I had made up my mind to continue playing in India. I vowed never to come to a foreign country again.”
Standing by his ward
Even if Gony was content with life in the US, his coach Sukhwinder Tinku wasn’t happy with his ward’s decision. Tinku, who also guided India all-rounder Gurkeerat Mann, played his part in getting Gony back on track.
“I was in constant touch with Tinku Sir. He coaxed me to come back, assuring me success if I worked hard. He spent a lot of time with me and corrected my bowling, batting and fielding. I used to be home and he would call saying he has reached the ground for extra practice,” he said.
Gony picked a wicket on return against Railways at Palam Ground. Though his pace has dipped a bit, he is using his experience to trouble batsmen, though it was his pace and ability to generate bounce, after a stellar IPL season in 2008, which had caught the attention of India selectors. “Though the pace has reduced a bit, it will go up as the season progresses. I have played a lot of practice matches to find my rhythm,” he said.
Gony may have discarded his biker looks, but not the biking. “Recently, our group rode on Harley Davidsons from Chandigarh to Goa and back. I ride passionately and whenever we are free, we go out and ride together. Riding gives me peace.”