Gagandeep Singh is the new pace sensation that India has discovered in the last month. This well built 24 year old Punjab-da-Puttar was a part of the Indian Squad which played in Bangladesh after his consistent performances in the domestic circuit last season. As much as one loves to go ga-ga over these new youngsters, this new policy by the selectors to induce fresh blood every now and then is really refreshing.
Cricketfundas.com’s Ashwat Ramani had the pleasure of talking to the Punjabi Paceman on the 23rd of December, and below are some excerpts from the interview.
Gagandeep, it’s been just 2 days since you have returned from the Bangladesh tour where you were part of a successful Indian team. How do you feel about that?
I am feeling very good after coming from Bangladesh, back to play for Punjab. Even the team has been doing well, and we are bowling well, so it feels good to be playing again for your team in the Ranji Trophy.
Do you think that the Bangladesh tour has added more confidence into you?
The confidence level is the same in me. I haven’t changed my game; it’s the same what it was before the Bangladesh tour. You get to learn a lot from International cricket, being with the International Cricketers. So if you can apply whatever you learn from your seniors, then it pays you rich dividends.
What was your reaction on getting the news that you were selected in the team?
I felt great really, I felt on the top of the world. I along with my friends enjoyed a lot after getting that news. Whenever an individual starts playing cricket, he watches lot of Cricket on the Television and has a dream of becoming somebody like Sachin Tendulkar or Kapil Dev. Even I had such a dream, and when I came to know about my selection, I was very happy thinking that I would be among the cricketers whom I used to watch on TV.
You had bowled really well last season with 45 wickets to your name. So were you expecting a call from the Indian Selectors?
Last year, I had bowled really well and was hoping for a break at least into the India A team. Even this year, the performance has been quite good with 28 wickets in just 4 games. Right now, I am working really hard and praying that I get a chance as soon as possible. I make sure that if I get one chance, I’ll give my best.
How was it sharing the dressing room with the Indian Greats like Sourav, Sachin and Dravid?
As I already said, it was a dream come true to be among the players, whom you watch on the Television. John Wright was also very helpful and he explained me what line and length should I bowl. He explained me how to alter your bowling according to the situation. I also met Wasim Akram who is considered great by any upcoming bowler. He was also really helpful, and gave me some important tips. So whatever he taught me, I’ll apply that in my bowling. Now that we have the Pakistan team coming here in about 2 months, I hope that I get a chance to prove my mettle.
Ok, talk us through your early days in cricket. Who was your role model?
I started playing cricket during my school days. In those days, I wasn’t much into the game and just played casual cricket for my school. But once I started doing well in school, I got selected at the district level and slowly got promoted to the state level. So as I went on progressing, I was able to understand the game really well and was quite successful with many wickets. So slowly but steadily, I have reached this stage. Talking about bowlers whom I idolized upon, my role models were Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Whenever I saw them play, I used to feel very good. I carefully used to watch them bowl, notice their line and length and tried to apply that in my bowling during my early days.
Your debut in Ranji was a memorable one for you with a 5 wicket haul against Hyderabad. Tell us about that Match.
When I made my Ranji Debut against Hyderabad, I was facing big stars like the then Indian Captain Mohammad Azharudding, VVS Laxman, Venkatapathy Raju etc. So, it was a very good team and I was a bit nervous making my debut against players of such high caliber. I was very lucky to get 5 wickets in the 1st Innings, and Vikram Rathore who was our captain, supported me a lot. Even Harbhajan was with us during that time and he too supported me a lot. So with all this support, I was ready to work hard and do well for my team.
You took 12 wickets a month back against Assam. How did you feel during that time? Do you think that match made a difference in you getting selected for the Indian team?
Yes, that was a very good match for me. Actually, I had been selected in the squad for the Board President’s XI to play South Africa at Jaipur. But I didn’t get selected in the final XI, so I took permission and came back to Punjab to play that match against Assam. It was a dream start for me in that match and I ended up taking 12 wickets eventually. Even in the next match, we had an outright win against Baroda where I took 8 wickets. So I think the selectors were impressed with that performance, and they gave me a chance by selecting me for the Bangladesh Tour.
Does it feel bad, when you are a part of the squad but don’t get to play a single match?
No, it isn’t like that. You need to respect and understand the requirements of the team. At that time you had Irfan and Zaheer bowling really well; Kumble and Harbhajan were also doing well. As you know, Kumble also went on to surpass Kapil. Even Bangladesh performed very well in the 2nd Test, so I think the best Indian XI played against Bangladesh.
Pakistan will be touring India in about 2-3 months from now. So are you excited about that series, considering the fact that you might make your debut against a Pakistan side possibly?
You don’t really know what is going to happen 2 months from now, because you have Ashish Nehra who is suffering from an injury currently, and then you have Balaji who is also suffering from an injury. These 2 bowlers are set to make a comeback during the Pakistan tour. So you have to make sure that whenever you get a chance, you should give your best. So I hope that I will perform well against Pakistan if given a chance.
Punjab has done wonderfully well throughout this season. Can Punjab clinch this year’s Ranji Trophy?
Well, cricket is a game of uncertainty and we still aren’t sure about the teams that are going to qualify for the Semis. If we qualify then I am pretty sure that we will do very well. Our coach Intikhab Alam is a mastermind and he has guided us really well. He has supported us a lot, and I think if we qualify for the semis, we will try to make our coach proud by winning the Ranji Trophy.
How important has Intikhab Alam’s contribution been to the team?
His way of motivating players is really wonderful. He never allows a player to feel down and out. He motivates you really well; doesn’t matter if you are doing well or not. A cricketer has both bad days and good days in his career. Intikhab Alam is such a coach, who would encourage you on the good days as well motivate you to do well when you are going through a rough patch. A good coach is the one who can handle a player really well. He handles a player really well both in the good times as well as the bad times. A person can teach you how to bowl or how to field anywhere in the world, but a coach is one who handles the team really well, and that’s why Intikhab Alam is such a great coach.