Have you heard of Dalli Rajhara? No, he’s not a person, or the name of an exotic dish found in pretentious restaurants. Dalli Rajhara is a town in Chhattisgarh, with the most recent census pegging its population at just over 50,000. It’s an area rich in natural resources, with iron ore deposits first being discovered in 1900, and is home to India’s largest integrated steel plant. It’s also home to a rare breed of Indian cricketer, the seam-bowling all-rounder.
Harpreet Singh, the son of a small-time garment trader, is built like a tank, well over six feet tall and not a hint of fat on broad shoulders and thick arms. But as is so often the case with giants, he’s gentle. While he hasn’t got a chance to bat yet in this tournament, Harpreet has bowled some very useful overs of medium-pace, often surprising batsmen with a lack of pace. “I’m a middle order batsman so my role really comes into play in crunch situations and when the team has lost early wickets,” says Harpreet, who bats at No. 5. “In any situation, I have to finish the game.
In bowling, I have to give the captain some control, bowling three-four tight overs.”
Harpreet is being unnecessarily modest, for in these conditions, he’s worth more than four overs. Bowling just short of a driving length, he gets the ball to wobble in the air and move off the pitch, albeit not at great pace.
While the left-hand batsman in him idolises Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir, the right-arm seamer, doubling up as an allrounder, keeps a close watch on Australia’s Shane Watson. “I just like to see how he goes about his job, his mental approach,” says Harpreet. “He has to balance batting and bowling responsibilities.”
He does not quite realise it yet, but Harpreet is a lynchpin in this team.
The overs he provides allows the team the luxury of playing an extra batsman, and his batting means there’s space to carry the odd specialist bowler who doesn’t contribute too much in other departments.
Off the field, too, Harpreet is in much demand as his Sunny Deol impressions keep the team in splits whenever they’re trying to keep things light.
But on the field, things aren’t going to be light any more. After successful outings against Afghanistan and Hong Kong sealed a place in the next round, a win against England will ensure India top their group. This will mean they play West Indies, rather than Pakistan, in the quarterfinals.
“We do feel like the real tournament is beginning now. This is the talk among the boys at the moment,” says Harpreet. “We keep talking about these things and try to take it just one match at a time.”
Each match is a small step for the team, but a giant leap for the all-rounder from Dalli Rajhara.