Simi Singh, from Punjab, realising cricket dreams with Ireland
From the cold back home to the late summer heat in the UAE, Ireland have a double challenge on their hands as they begin their campaign in the T20 World Cup qualifying stage against Netherlands in Abu Dhabi on October 18.
At least one man in the squad is expected to quickly adapt to the conditions—
Simranjit Singh, aka Simi Singh. The India-born all-rounder who made his debut for Ireland in 2017 is raring to go and help his team make it to the Super 12 stage.
“I played junior cricket in India in similar conditions before moving to Ireland. I am sure that experience is going to come handy. We need to get more practice matches before the round one matches start and execute our plans during the crucial matches,” said Singh, 34, who scored his maiden international century against South Africa in Dublin in July. His 100 not out makes him the only player to score an ODI century at No. 8.
It was some reward for Singh after frustration as a teenager in the Indian domestic circuit. Despite doing well in the U-16s and U-17s, he was not able to secure his place in the Punjab team. The player from Mohali was only 18 when he left for Ireland in 2005 to pursue a hotel management course.
“I am happy I made that move and got to play cricket at club level, then at provincial level; my international debut came in 2017. I am thrilled to be taking part in my first T20 World Cup representing Ireland,” said Singh, who also bowls off-spin. He has played 33 ODIs and 34 T20s for Ireland.
The entry into the national team didn’t come easily either. For over 12 years, he did odd jobs while amassing runs and taking wickets in domestic cricket till he got Irish citizenship in May 2017, becoming eligible to play for Ireland.
In February against UAE, Singh produced another impressive effort, scoring 54* and taking 5/10, the fifth most economical five-wicket haul in ODIs. It is also the most economical hauls by a player who also scored at least a fifty in the game.
Singh’s bonding with teammates includes introducing them to Punjabi cuisine, music and culture. They gorge on ‘butter chicken’, ‘aneer masala’ and ‘butter naan’ and listen to Punjabi tunes while travelling for games.
“The Irish are like Punjabi people, happy and very energetic,” said Singh, who feels Ireland having played England, South Africa and West Indies in the last one year has helped gain confidence.
“Ireland cricket has progressed a lot. We get to play quality international games and polish our skills. We come into the T20 World Cup campaign with the right mindset and experience of playing good cricket. Captain Andrew Balbirnie, Kevin O’Brien and Paul Stirling bring a lot to the table with their talent. We should focus on qualifying for the Super 12 stage. It would have been great if the World Cup was in India. I could then play in front of my family.” Stirling broke Virat Kohli’s record for scoring most fours in T20 cricket, surpassing the Indian skipper’s tally of 285 fours by reaching 288 against UAE in Ireland’s last match of a three-match series in Dubai on Saturday.
Ireland will also play Sri Lanka and Namibia in Group A, with the top two sides progressing to the Super 12. Of the 16 teams, 12 will progress to Super 12.
“Qualifying for Super 12 and taking on India would be great. I have given myself a lot of time in the nets in batting and bowling. All-round skills are most required at international level. Apart from off-spin, I have been bowling leg-spin too. These additions should help me perform better,” said Singh, who is Ireland’s centrally contracted player.
He idolises Sachin Tendulkar and former Pakistan spinner Saqlain Mushtaq and has got bowling inputs from Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan.