Gurcharan Singh, 'pitching it straight' at 85

In his 186-page book, co-authored by senior journalist MS Unnikrishnan, renowned coach Gurcharan offers priceless tips to the current generation with anecdotes.

Published : Aug 28, 2020 19:38 IST , New Delhi

'Pitching It Straight' also covers Gurcharan Singh's thoughts on the Indian Premier League and the match-fixing saga.
'Pitching It Straight' also covers Gurcharan Singh's thoughts on the Indian Premier League and the match-fixing saga.

'Pitching It Straight' also covers Gurcharan Singh's thoughts on the Indian Premier League and the match-fixing saga.

It is not often that a cricket coach gets to pen his memoir. For Gurcharan Singh, to recall his life and career at 85 was an arduous task. But his sharp memory and youthful exuberance led to a 186-page book titled 'Pitching It Straight’.

Published by Vitasta and co-authored by veteran sports journalist MS Unnikrishnan, it is a delightful peep into the past when cricket was an enjoyable vocation.

Describing Gurcharan as a “rare breed” in his foreword, former India captain Kapil Dev says, “There is much to learn from Sir’s life journey. Sir remains the same even 40 years after I first met him, never bothering to be in the limelight, despite having the right credentials. That says a lot about his character. This book will be very educative. He has played a fantastic role as a coach and teacher not only to me, but also to a dozen international hundreds of first class cricketers at his famous centre at the National Stadium.”


Gurcharan, who was honoured with the Dronacharya Award in 1987, has devoted his life to cricket. “I am what I am because of cricket. It took me places, introduced me to some wonderful people in life, and taught to be humble. It made me accept defeats as gracefully as I celebrated my triumphs,” says the renowned coach.

A constant figure at the National Stadium in Delhi, Gurcharan, who had launched the Pace Academy at Gwalior in 1992, trained hundreds of youngsters, some graduating to represent the country, notably Surender Khanna, Kirti Azad, Maninder Singh, Gursharan Singh, Kartik Murali, Ajay Jadeja, Rahul Sanghvi, Vivek Razdan, Nikhil Chopra, Gagan Khoda. One of his favourite students was Sunil Valson, member of the 1983 World Cup winning team. “My job was to guide them, They worked hard to earn the national colours,” was his response.

Gurcharan Singh at a hotel in New Delhi in 2017.

In a glowing tribute to Gurcharan, former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi says, “Having followed Gurcharan Singh’s momentous life over the decades, I can easily vouch about his single passion and dedication in life – cricket. He has been an example of humility, religiosity and good old human values that are getting extinct in the modern world. He has gone out of the way to get young cricketers jobs in various PSUs that he has been involved with, or where he has known that vacancies existed. Gurcharan has spent all his life faithfully serving cricket. Gurcharan has been a selfless servant of cricket.”


The book covers the exciting period when cricket was patronised by royal families. It also has an emotional chapter, recalling losing his father to riots during the 1947 partition, as he narrates the 2018 journey to his native home in Gandakaas in Pakistan, 72 years after Independence. “The village had changed beyond recognition. The village pond, where we used to swim, had been levelled to build a girls’ school,” he writes.

There are interesting anecdotes related to discipline, of Gurcharan asking a Test opener to leave the ‘nets’ for show of temper, of keeping Kirti Azad out of the match for reporting late during a private tour to England. “I had learnt the lessons in discipline the hard way. I was once made the 12th man by my captain (William Ghosh) in a Ranji Trophy match for turning up 10 minutes late (from reporting time) on the first day,” Gurcharan remembers.


He played 37 first-class matches (1,198 runs with one century) for Maharaja of Patiala’s XI, Railways and Southern Punjab before joining National Institute of Sports as a coach. He could earn a place in the Railways team which included stars of that time like Lala Amarnath, Dattu Phadkar, BB Nimbalkar, Nari Contractor, Budhi Kunderan and Vasant Ranjane.

The affable coach, who is famous for his eye to spot young talent, also speaks on various issues related to Indian cricket, the Indian Premier League, the match-fixing saga, and concludes with some priceless tips to the current generation.

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