Dawn – Sikh cricketer dreams of the big leagues

Saher Baloch

Karachi, 5 April 2017. When Mahinder Pal Singh expressed his desire to play cricket, his father made it clear that he would have to complete his education first. Only then would he be allowed to pursue his chosen career.

At the State Bank of Pakistan Sports Complex in North Nazimabad, Singh sat down for a brief chat with Dawn after practice and spoke about his journey so far. Representing the Candyland team of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), he was part of the Grade-II three-day match in Karachi held in March.

Singh is all ready to leave Karachi for another set of training sessions across the country. The 20-year-old from Nankana Sahib, Punjab, is so far “among the first Sikhs in recent history to be part of domestic cricket,” according to a PCB official.

Born and brought up partly in Khyber Agency, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Nankana Sahib, Singh grew up speaking Pashto and Punjabi. “I wanted to be a cricketer even before my father wanted me to become a doctor. Cricket is my real passion,” he says.

Representing Mardan during an open trial in Multan last November, he was selected by the National Cricket Academy (NCA) to play as part of the Youth XI team against Malaysia in Jan 2017 at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.

But before that, he had to work hard to be able to play cricket given his parents’ insistence that he give due importance to his education.

Singh was asked to complete the tenth standard and then join an academy to train. “My parents asked me to get at least 86 per cent in the tenth standard.

I understood where they were coming from as they thought if I didn’t make it in cricket then at least I’d have something to fall back on,” he adds. Singh got the exact percentage that his parents had asked him to.

But as soon as the result was out, Singh was handed the first year pre-medical form of Government College, Lahore, to fill up in 2012.

“I was told to get a good percentage after which I would be allowed to play. Once again, I started studying,” he adds.

Once admitted into first year, Singh tried getting into the cricket training camp at college but was stopped. “I was told that only students studying arts and humanities were allowed to play.

I focused on studying for a while but then my thoughts wandered back to cricket,” he reveals. At the same time, his schedule was such that he was in college from 8am till 4pm, and then had to attend coaching classes till 9pm.

“It drove me to a point that as soon as my first year send-up finished, I joined Abdul Qadir Academy without informing anyone. I saved Rs100 every day to pay for the Rs3,000 monthly fees. I skipped classes after 1pm and reached the academy for training,” he adds.

While appearing for his biology exam, Singh had an idea on how to end this continuing cycle of taking exams and dedicate his life towards cricket.

“I knew the biology paper by heart, yet I decided to only answer the multiple choice questions and leave the rest of the paper. This was the only way for me to get out and focus on cricket,” he reveals.

When the result came out he had failed the subject. “It was only then that my father realised how serious I was about playing cricket and allowed me to go ahead with it. Still, my parents put a condition of at least completing my FSc and I assured them I would,” he says.

Singh is currently studying pharmacy at the Punjab University. “My father is happy,” Singh says. “Not only does my family support me, but the entire Sikh community across the world, especially from the UK, Canada and Australia, is reaching out to me after my selection and subsequent match against Malaysia.”

Singh’s only wish is to put in “extraordinary efforts to get into national cricket.” However, it all depends on his performance from here onwards.

“I’ll keep practising and working on my swing. For me things worked out far better than I expected. I only have to give it all my best and then pray.”



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