Shakti Singh - a match referee who sings a different tune

Shakti, who is a BCCI accredited match referee, is also a singer and has performed for music directors like Jatin-Lalit and Shankar Mahadevan.

Shakti, who plied his trade for Delhi and Himachal Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy, is enjoying donning two hats.   -  K. PICHUMANI

While the phrase  'batsman dancing to a bowler's tune' has been part of the cricketing parlance for long, having Bollywood actors tap feet to your songs is something novel, especially for a cricketer.

To Shakti Singh, who considers himself an ‘accidental cricketer’, a Bollywood career in playback singing is just as fascinating as his love for the gentleman's game.

Shakti, who is a BCCI accredited match referee, is also a singer and has performed for music directors like Jatin-Lalit and Shankar Mahadevan. The medium pacer, who plied his trade for Delhi and Himachal Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy, is enjoying donning two hats.

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A singing bowler

Shakti started playing cricket from the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai (then Madras) and developed into a lethal bowler for Himachal Pradesh, claiming 200 wickets for the Himalayan state in India’s premier domestic competition – Ranji Trophy.

Cricket, however, didn’t let the interest in music die. “I always had a fascination for singing and I knew I had to take up singing professionally someday or the other. I was always practising singing when not playing and released albums.

"In 1999, I released my first album, Hai Daiya, and then released a few more. Unfortunately, they didn’t do well and I continued playing cricket,” the 50-year-old said.

It wasn't until 2004 that his friends and family urged him to take up singing professionally. A job with the Central Excise furthered Shakti's cause - a posting in the Customs clearance department at the Mumbai airport keeping him close to the tinsel town.

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Bollywood comes calling

“That was when I started recording my songs on CDs and started giving it to music directors at the airport. Most of them never took it seriously, thinking I am just another customs official trying to sing. But they didn’t know the interest behind it. It was in 2005 when Jatin heard a song and called me for an audition that Bollywood came calling,” he reminisced.

Shakti’s first tryst with singing was the movie Mera Dil Leke Dekho, composed by Jatin-Lalit. He then sang in the Jackie Shroff, Sohail Khan-starrer Kisan, Aage aage dekhe ja from the movie Life Partner and a song in Athithi Tum Kab Jaaoge sent his charts soaring. He then signed for Shankar Mahadevan to sing in the movie Patiala House.

However, juggling between cricket and playback singing can be difficult, Shakti admits. “I lost many chances as I was away officiating domestic matches in various parts of the country. It is a tough choice to choose from. I hope a big Bollywood break is around the corner,” he said.

Shakti even has ‘fans’ among cricketers. “Many of the old-timers, like Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Vikram Rathore and even K. Srikkanth love my singing. There have been instances when we all used to sit down after matches and I used to sing for them. It was fun,” he said adding his favourite Tamil number is Mannil Intha Kaadhal.

With a supportive family, Shakti’s daughter has also followed her father’s footsteps in weaving magic with the mic. “She (Shivaranjani Singh) has sung in many movies. She also sang for the Tamil movie Devi. We are different in our music styles, she is into Western while I am into classical. It is a good fusion when we meet,” he added.