Mandeep Singh credits the month he spent with the India ‘A’ squad in Australia under coach Rahul Dravid for his selection into the Indian ODI squad for the first three matches against New Zealand . Mandeep, who hails from Jalandhar, feels Dravid acted as a healer and a motivator for him.
“I will carry the confidence Rahul bhai gave me,” Mandeep told HT from Delhi, where he is playing for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy match against the Railways. “He, basically, showed me me how self-belief can do wonders for you.”
Mandeep wasn’t very successful at the beginning of the ‘A’ tour Down Under (in August-September), but once he started having sit-down sessions with Dravid, things changed for the better. It was his knock of 95 runs in the final against Australia ‘A’ that helped India ‘A’ win the Quadrangular series at Mackey.
“I was under a lot of pressure in the initial matches during the tour,” said the 24-year-old right-handed batsman. “The wickets and the conditions were different and the opposition was at their best. So, I had started to break down mentally and was over-thinking, questioning my abilities as a batsman. I thought that my India senior stint would just be limited to the T20 matches I played in Zimbabwe (in June) as I was not able to get runs in Australia.
Then Dravid stepped in. “He (Dravid) kept pushing me and kept telling me to let go of the pressure and not think about cricket all the time,” added Mandeep. “He helped me get over the failures during the initial matches and advised me to just play my natural game. Before the final, I played a handy knock of 56 runs and that lifted my spirits.”
The son of an athletics coach, Mandeep rose in stature while playing for the India Under-19 team, though his entry into the India senior team took time. He made his debut for India under MS Dhoni in the three T20 matches against Zimbabwe and scored a half-century as well.
Having done well for Punjab, North Zone, India ‘A’, Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the IPL, Mandeep has a reputation as an aggressive batsman and is looking forward to make the best of his time with the senior ODI squad.
Mandeep said it was important to think the way Dravid taught him to and play to his strengths during the ODI series against the Kiwis if he gets a chance in the playing XI.
“Getting an ODI team call-up is a big deal for me,” he said. “Going against my father and not taking up athletics as a sport was not easy. And today my parents are the happiest seeing me getting closer to my dream. I think of ways to keep the pressure away from my mind and and I am a different batsman mentally after the Australia tour because of Dravid’s conditioning.”