Now and then Cricket

From cricketer to commentator: Maninder Singh on staying connected with the game

Maninder Singh has a bowl, watched by skipper M. Azharuddin during a work-out at the Ferozeshah Kotla in New Delhi on March 11, 1993. (Published in The Hindu on March 12, 1993) PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Maninder Singh has a bowl, watched by skipper M. Azharuddin during a work-out at the Ferozeshah Kotla in New Delhi on March 11, 1993. (Published in The Hindu on March 12, 1993) PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES  

Cricketer Maninder Singh on following the path of spirituality, and staying connected with the game through commentary and coaching

Spinners mature late but Maninder Singh quit competitive cricket at 30, less than a year after claiming seven wickets in a Test against Zimbabwe at Ferozeshah Kotla, his home ground. “I had no motivation left,” says Maninder. Experts did notice a change in his bowling action, but that seemed no reason for this gifted bowler to walk away from the game he fell in love with as a teenager, they believed. Many asked him to reconsider, but he stuck to his guns.

Off field, on the game

It wasn’t the end of his love for the game though. One of cricket’s biggest underachievers, as often reiterated by Kapil Dev, Maninder continues to earn a part of his livelihood from it. “I have been with News Nation for five years now and the channel has been kind to me. I enjoy the lively working atmosphere, and our discussions on the game are serious,” says the expert commentator.

In his straight-talking way he says, “It can be boring sometimes to watch cricket, but if I have to give my opinion, then I must watch the matches. You can't be dishonest towards your viewers and fans. I do extensive homework for my cricket shows and don’t hesitate to take a stand.”

From cricketer to commentator: Maninder Singh on staying connected with the game
 

As a player, Maninder commanded the respect of the best of batsmen. “His talent was awesome and he would deceive you in the air. It was tough to read his spin because he had a lethal armer,” was how Test batsman N.S. Sidhu, a fine player of spin, described him once. Then he served the game as an umpire, excelling on the first-class circuit.

He was simultaneously commentating on cricket when he was told to pick one of the two around 2001-02. “I chose to be a commentator [on Star Sports] because it was a nice way to stay in touch with the game. It gave me a chance to get into the ring and give my views. I learnt from [Ian] Chappell and [Tony] Greig to make the game interesting for the viewer by adding colour to the picture. Sushil Doshi [Hindi commentator] taught me the importance of voice modulation.”

Back in the day

A debut at 17 in Pakistan heralded Maninder’s entry to international cricket in 1982. He was welcomed as a “tremendous talent” by stalwarts like Sunil Gavaskar and G.R. Viswanath. His best (seven for 27) came against Pakistan at Bengaluru in 1987; unfortunately India lost the match.

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When he ‘retired’, it was because he wasn’t happy with the way he’d lived life. “I took to meditation. I was initiated into it by my homoeopath, Amrita Wadhwa and guided by a friend, Chander Mohan.”

Today, he says he is at peace with himself. His daily routine includes spending time with his 87-year-old mother, yoga, meditation and performing paath.

“I made a few mistakes; I suffered because of them, and wasted my talent,” says the much-mellowed man now. “I fought alcohol and temperament issues, and I was falsely accused of being a drug addict, of attempting to end my life. I don’t want youngsters to make the mistakes I made. They must learn to handle success, be humble and respectful.”

Now, he looks at life with a fresh perspective. “I have gone through very difficult times, but life is good now. I begin and end my day with prayers and do my work honestly. I tell youngsters not to be like me.”

Strangely, Maninder, despite playing in front of packed stadiums, has had a phobia of crowds. “That is the reason I never went to watch the Republic Day parade [in the Capital] which I followed with passion on TV. I don’t visit gurdwaras for this reason, because I once got lost as a child [in a huge gurdwara congregation]. I love quiet places.”

Capital city

For Maninder, the Capital is a “great city with a lively culture”. His life revolved around Lutyens’ Delhi. “My school [Air Force Bal Bharti] was close to Lodi Garden, and coaching [at National Stadium] was a nice walk from home [Lodhi Colony]. My favourite restaurant [Pindi] was on Pandara Road.”

Maninder Singh with Son (Arun) and daughter (Rui) .

Maninder Singh with Son (Arun) and daughter (Rui) .   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

 

He says he was fortunate to have a caring principal (H. Baxi) and administrator (V.K. Duggal). “At Khalsa College, my principal G.S. Randhawa, political science teacher [D.S. Claire], English teacher [Lakhmir Singh] and sports in-charge [Pargat Singh] were a big help in guiding me in their respective fields,” he says.

In his 54 years he has seen the city grow, though he feels security has deteriorated. “But it is a delight to drive on Delhi roads.”

As Maninder reflects on his career, he gives all credit to cricket coach Gurcharan Singh. “I owe everything to him. He taught me cricket and shaped my life. Gurcharan Sir was the one who convinced my parents to allow me to play cricket.” In fact, it was he who helped him get admission in school. “He treated me like his son. You don’t get gurus like Gurcharan Sir any more. [Bishan] Bedi’s guidance, and support from Mohinder Amarnath were priceless too,” he says, expressing gratitude for all the people who shaped his life.

He now devotes time to guiding young talent, often coaching for free. He picks off-spinner Hrithik Shokeen, who made his India under-19 debut in February this year, as a promising player.

Maninder is a proud father: “My daughter [Rui Pavani] is happily married and my son [Arjun] is studying to be an interior designer. God is looking after me and my family. My philosophy is simple: I live for the day and don’t look too far ahead.”

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Printable version | May 21, 2020 8:23:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/i-live-for-the-day-and-dont-look-too-far-ahead/article28816682.ece

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