Some 13 years back, a 17-year-old boy from Mohali joined the American College in Dublin as one of the international students. The soft spoken youngster would quietly attend the lectures and the rest of the time, he would be playing cricket.
Today, Simranjeet Singh finds himself in the limelight. That too, for pure cricketing reasons!
On Monday, when the Cricket Ireland selectors picked the squad for next week’s tri-series at home , they called up a debutant to replace Andy McBrine. And, that was Simranjeet — or as the Irish call him, Simi!
When the tri-series, featuring Ireland, New Zealand and Bangladesh, gets underway in Dublin later this week, the Mohali-born Simi will be living his dreaming of playing international cricket, albeit for a different team. “It’s a great feeling, and quite unbelievable. As a kid I wanted to play international cricket for India. But at least the dream of playing is coming true,” Simi told Sportstar from Dublin on Tuesday afternoon.
“The preparatory camp will start today (Tuesday) and I am pretty excited about that. This series is going to be an exciting one, and I hope to feature in the playing eleven,” Simi says. He was given Irish citizenship only last month.
While growing up in Mohali, Simi’s childhood days would start at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, playing cricket. “I lived close by, and everyday I would make it a point to visit the stadium to play. That’s how it all started,” Simi says.
After representing Punjab at the U-14, U-17 and U-19 level, Simi suddenly found himself in a spot when he was dropped from the U-19 team. That’s when his close friend Gaurav, who was then living in Ireland, proposed the idea of Simi settling down in Dublin and continuing playing cricket. “That time, I thought the career had hit a road-block and I had to take a decision,” he says, about his move to shift base.
“Even though, I came here as a student, my only target was to play cricket. That’s all I love doing,” Simi, who has been team-mates with Gurkeerat Singh Mann and Manpreet Gony in the Punjab junior squad, says.
He was roped in by Malahide Cricket Club and Simi was briefly back in India in 2009 to be a part of the selection trial programme for the Kings XI Punjab. “I tried hard, but was not picked,” he says.
After returning to Ireland, he was approached by second-division side Old Belvedre Cricket Club. “That’s how I started playing serious cricket in Ireland. Things changed thereafter,” he says.
Even as he gets ready for the new challenge, Simi agrees that starting at 30 is a bit late. “But every opportunity is a big opportunity,” he says, with a smile.
Before being picked by the Ireland A squad last year, Simi was associated with the YMCA as a player-cum-coach. “I would teach the youngsters how to tackle situations, and teach them a bit of spin bowling and batting,” he says.
There’s also a catch here.
While he played as a top-order batsman in Punjab, Simi focused on spin bowling ever since moving to Ireland, and now, he has been named in the side as a bowling all-rounder. “After coming to Ireland, I discovered that here batsmen have problems against spin. There was a dearth of spinners, and that’s why I developed my spin bowling,” he says.
During his formative years, Simi has played in J. P. Atray Trophy and Buchi Babu Trophy for Punjab, along with former India cricketer Reetinder Singh Sodhi. Even Sodhi is happy to see his old team-mate making it count. “It’s been really long, but it is a great feeling to hear someone doing so well. Playing for any country is a big deal,” Sodhi says about his state-mate.
As the new kid on the block gears up for a new journey, he also has a secret wish. “I want to play for Ireland against India. That too, in Mohali,” Simi says!
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