Mandeep Singh has been one of the finds of the IPL, with his impressive performances and confidence catching everyone's attention.
Mandeep Singh has been a revelation in this year's IPL (432 runs in 16 matches), playing a significant hand in Kings XI Punjab's impressive performances. The 20-year-old, who was India's vice-captain in the under-19 World Cup in 2010, has been hailed as a “future India player in all three forms” by David Hussey. The cheerful Mandeep speaks with confidence and clarity about his desire to don the India cap, admiration for Sachin Tendulkar, and why his father didn't want him to play cricket. Excerpts…
Cricket against father's wishes
Normally athletic people don't like cricket and my father is an athletics coach. He didn't want me to play cricket. He wanted me to become a doctor like my older brother. I started playing cricket when I was 11 years-old. Fortunately, I started doing well and made it to the Punjab under-15 side when I was 13. Soon, he started hearing good things about me. Gradually, he started supporting me and now he is very happy I took to cricket (laughs). First hero I started playing cricket because of Sachin Tendulkar. I was a huge fan of him and I still am one. I remember sticking posters of him in my room.
Pillars of support
My brother, who is now a veterinary doctor, supported me a lot in my formative years. He used to bowl to me and persuade my father to encourage me. Vikram paaji (Vikram Rathore) has been a great coach for Punjab and a great human being as well. He has always emphasised the need to be mentally strong and perform well in different conditions. He has also advised me on the importance of playing well in all the formats.
If you have to play for India, you will have to start playing first-class cricket by the time you are 18 or 19…which I did. I made my debut when I was 18. I scored 53 not out in that game against Himachal Pradesh in difficult conditions. It was also good spending time with Yuvi paaji (Yuvraj Singh). He taught me a few things. Last year, Bhaji paaji (Harbhajan Singh) came in and he's a great guy, very helpful. I have been playing well in first-class cricket so far and hopefully it will stay that way.
The big dream
My biggest goal is to play for India and play for at least 10 years. Hopefully, I will make it to the Indian team as soon as possible. As of now, I am concentrating on my batting and looking to improving my skills.
Kings XI Punjab's foreign connection
Their (foreign players) biggest strength is they know their game very well. One thing that I have learnt from them is it's important to play to your strengths. Whenever I go out to bat, David Hussey asks me to play my natural game. It's because he knows whenever I do that, I perform well. Azhar paaji (Mahmood) is a street-smart cricketer and I have learnt a lot by just watching such experienced players prepare themselves.
Idols: Sachin Tendulkar, M.S. Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh
Actors: Akshay Kumar, Hrithik Roshan, Shah Rukh Khan
Celebrity I would like to go out for dinner with: Kareena Kapoor
Most good-looking sportsperson: Virat Kohli
Attire: Jeans and T-shirt.