Edged and gone!

Gursharan Singh

Gursharan Singh

Providence played a huge part in Gursharan Singh’s initiation to the big league. A century on first-class debut at Pune, playing for India (under-22) against Keith Fletcher’s English team in 1981, had heralded his cricket journey. His runs were made against Bob Willis, Ian Botham, Paul Allott and Graham Dilley. “It was a dream,” he remembers.

That performance paved his selection to the Delhi team. His scores, 47 and 5 not out (against Punjab), 0 and 0 (against Tamil Nadu), 15 (against Bihar) were not convincing. Selectors wanted him out but skipper Mohinder Amarnath backed him for the final against Karnataka. “He picked me ahead of his younger brother (Rajinder). I will ever remain indebted to him,” says a grateful Gursharan.

The final was an epic. Karnataka amassed 705. Delhi’s response was awesome. But an amazing tale first. Gursharan walked in at 95 for one to replace Chetan Chauhan and join Raman Lamba. “I was promoted from No 7 to No 3.”

Left-arm spinner B. Vijayakrishna evoked a forward prod. The ball spun back and rattled the stumps. Gursharan, crestfallen, looked askance. Wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani jumped. So did the bail. And then the batsman and the keeper watched an astonishing feat. The bail rose and nicely settled in its original slot.

“I couldn’t believe my luck,” recalls Gursharan. Kirmani protested, “How this can happen? What have you done?” Gursharan looked at the sky, resumed his innings and slammed a brilliant 101, inspiring those who followed to overhaul Karnataka’s total with two wickets in hand. “It is vivid. The bail did not fall,” says Kirmani.

Gursharan’s career took off from that century. He made it to the Indian team for the 1983 tour to the West Indies. He did not get to play in the Tests but had a critical role in forcing a draw against Barbados in the company of Mohinder. He was picked to go to Zimbabwe in 1984 but jaundice laid him low. Next season, he went out of national reckoning and Delhi also dropped him. A peeved Gursharan sought transfer to Punjab, putting his marriage on hold. “I vowed I shall not marry until I get back to the Indian team.” The opportunity came in 1990 when he travelled to New Zealand.

He was in excellent form in New Zealand. Scores of 115 (v Otago), 80 and 50 not out (v Northern Districts) earned him a Test cap at Auckland. “But I succumbed to the pressure of somehow getting a fifty to cement my place. I failed to read the change of pace (from Shane Thomson) and was caught and bowled.” Gursharan made 18 in his only Test innings and 4 in his lone ODI against Australia.

He returned to figure in the Indian team for four home Tests against the West Indies. As a substitute, he took four catches, a record of sorts at Ahmedabad. The best was plucking a sharp chance on his right at short leg to dismiss Viv Richards off Kapil Dev.

“I don’t blame anyone. I didn’t capitalise on the chances that came my way. I scored many 30s and 40s in crucial matches but not fifties. I think I paid for my overconfidence. But I feel a player should be given a proper run before he is discarded,” he notes.

The 1992-93 season was his most eventful when he led Punjab to its only Ranji trophy title with a convincing win against Maharashtra. “It will remain a special day for me, lifting the Ranji Trophy,” remembers the 51-year-old Gursharan, working as Manager (Senior) with the Steel Authority of India Limited. He lives in Delhi with wife (Narinder), son (Swapandeep) and daughter (Harleen).

Many years after the bail incident, Gursharan experienced a comical dismissal involving him. Playing on the backfoot, against Services at the Palam ground, he was adjudged leg before. He showed dissent and was admonished by coach Bishan Singh Bedi, “The ball hit your pads on the backfoot. Plumb.” Gursharan smiled, “Paaji. It hit the pads, fine, not mine, but the wicketkeeper’s.”

Gursharan Singh played 1 Test (18 runs), 1 ODI (4 runs), 104 First Class matches (5719 runs, 14 centuries and 30 fifties).

Career span:1981-82 to 1994-95

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Printable version | May 20, 2022 6:56:39 pm |