Harmeet Singh has received encomiums from the likes of Bishen Singh Bedi and Ian Chappell for his crafty and effective left arm spin in the recently concluded ICC Under-19 World Cup in Australia.
Chappell has said that the Mumbai-born sikh is ready for international cricket. He said: “He bowls like Bishen Bedi with that same natural flight and guile that would right now place him as the best spin bowler in any Test side, bar England.” Harmeet played his part in the World Cup, especially in the victory against Pakistan in the quarterfinal.
While the cricketing world seems upbeat and ready to believe in what Chappell has said, his first coach and mentor Padmakar Shivalkar and also former Mumbai Ranji Trophy coach Praveen Amre are of the opinion that Harmeet, who will turn 20 on September 7, needs to get plenty of chances to learn and mature and play at least one full first class season before judgment is passed on his skill, craft and attitude to deal with the demands of a tough and gruelling Indian first class season, and thereafter, international cricket.
It was Rohit Sharma’s coach Dinesh Lad who sent the youngster many years ago to the Shivaji Park Gynkhana (SPG) where Shivalkar and Amre had founded an academy sponsored by BPL-Loop. “He had the loop then and was a good spinner able to extract bounce and turn. Loop is essential to succeed and take wickets. There is no doubt that he has the gifts, but he will have learn to bowl consistently and take wickets and that can happen only if he gets to play plenty of first class matches. When I was the selector two years ago, he played three Ranji Trophy matches, took 17 wickets against Himachal Pradesh, Railways and Tamil Nadu. He did not play the last season (2011-12). There is no harm in playing two left arm spinners, but he’s not got chances,” rued Shivalkar, one of the finest practitioners of left-arm spin — a linchpin in Bombay’s dominance in the national championship, but who did not play for India.
Amre also said that Harmeet has to play a full season. “He is a rare commodity. He’s really talented with skills and right attitude. He’s to be looked after by the people. Chappell and Bedi are impressed and hence they have talked about him. When I was the Mumbai coach we played him in three matches (4 for 89 and 3 for 38 against Himachal Pradesh at the BKC, Mumbai, 2 for 54 and 3 for 38 against Railways at the Karnail Singh Stadium, New Delhi and 5 for 86 against Tamil Nadu at the India Cements Guru Nanak College, Chennai). He did not play the last season. He’s already wasted two years. One must have the skill, but attitude is very important and that’s the reason he saw India through a difficult situation against Pakistan.”
There have been disciplinary issues with Harmeet, but one which Amre said has been sorted out. He was keen and eager to move to Haryana last year, but was not given the NOC by the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA). Harmeet led Mumbai to a Cooch Behar Trophy title win last year and has been a part of the India under-19 team’s World Cup campaign. “There is Iqbal Abdulla and Ramesh Powar in the Mumbai team, but I hope Harmeet’s claims are not ignored. He has to play a full season,” said Amre.