Rise of Harmeet Singh: After setbacks on and off the field and selective refusal to play for USA against India in T20 World Cup | Cricket News


One bad day in 2021, Harmeet Singh's phone rang. The former India U-19 cricketer had been living in the United States for a year, playing cricket and doing odd jobs outside of coaching, trying to forget his dark days with cricket in India. Life was starting to get better when that phone rang.

His mother was hospitalized due to COVID-19[feminine, and suffered from serious respiratory problems. He was asked if he could get a Remdesivir injection. He succeeded, but it didn't prove to be enough.

“It was the hardest moment of my life, I couldn't go, I saw his entire final rites via video call. I was just numb; everything came back in flashback. She took me to the ground daily, we experienced this journey together. I feel sad that she didn’t get to see this day,” chokes Harmeet.

That day is finally here now. Harmeet, who was once touted as a promising international talent by Australian legend Ian Chappell, will play international cricket, but with a difference. He will play against India for his new adopted country, the United States, in the T20 World Cup. It has been quite a journey for the 31-year-old left-arm spinner.

It was another phone call that changed his life. Tired of being a “victim of favoritism” and “selection politics,” he says he made the decision to move to the United States after a call came to him offering him a chance to play cricket in the United States. To understand the light at the end of the tunnel, you have to stumble through the darkness. Things were shining brightly after his stint with India U-19 in two World Cups, especially with Chappell's comments. But there was something else the former Australian captain said that would stick with him later in life. “A cricketer like Harmeet will stagnate if he stays at a lower level for too long, as it leads to sloppy habits,” Chappell had written in his Cricinfo column. “Harmeet is ready to be considered for national selection.”

Festive offer

A series of controversies would derail his dream. His name was implicated in the infamous 2013 spot-fixing scandal, in which he represented Rajasthan Royals. Then a bizarre image appeared on television screens of him driving his car straight into a crowded Andheri railway station in a Mumbai suburb. A photo of him surrounded by cops went viral. The talented boy had now become the unwanted youngster of Indian cricket. Teammates and friends began to distance themselves. More than the automobile episode, it is the rigging scandal which is the cause.

“People never wanted to hear my side of the story, the media wrote what they liked. In 2013, my name did not appear anywhere in initial loading spot fixing scandal, but someone said he was also involved and people wrote without checking it. The investigating officer himself said, “Beta, tune kuch nahi kiya hai (Son, you haven’t done anything), I will talk to the BCCI.” If they do anything, please call me. But I couldn't change people's perception,” says Harmeet, who represented India in two Under-19 World Cups in 2010 and 2012.

Harmeet Singh and his wife Harmeet alongside his wife. (Photo: Special arrangement)

“There is no doubt that Harmeet is innocent,” SN Srivastava, commissioner (special cell) of Delhi Police, had told DNA newspaper at the time. “He is a witness, not an approver. We are ready to clarify his innocence with anyone. Bookmakers had approached him once, but he never accepted their offer. This can happen to anyone. »

It's hard not to talk about your past, both good and bad. Once at the Bombay Gymkhana club, an India Test cricketer, the late Dilip Sardesai, watching him play, suddenly shouted out loud: “”yeah sardar India khelega ek din. (He will play for India one day). But the lights soon go out in his mind.

“I remember everyone's praise, but no one told me how I should deal with politics in cricket. I made my debut in 2009 and there came a time when I had no more opportunities. I had no answers about what I should do,” he recalls.

From 2009 to 2017, Harmeet played only nine first-class matches for Mumbai. He was depressed and frustrated. Even after the 2012 U-19 World Cup, a well-known administrator from another state had warned that Mumbai would never play it again. The MCA manager assured him that he would play the whole season. “I hear the big boys saying I should play Test cricket for India, I played Irani Trophy and I see Mumbai not staying in their Ranji Trophy team, I was benched all the way throughout the year,” he explains. He moved to Vidarbha before returning to Mumbai after the scandal season of 2013. He served a season-long cooling-off period and was available for selection. Mumbai didn't play him again. Mid-season he moved to Jammu and Kashmir, then moved to Mumbai again in 2016, then played for Mumbai in 2017. But the opportunities were too few and too far away.

His father Jasbir saw his son slowly collapse at home. “He didn't talk too much, he said to his mother: 'I don't know why they are doing this to me. I play but they still don't choose me. I saw him depressed and it wasn't a pretty sight. Mein bola 'chadd yaar, doosre state try karte hai (let's forget that, let's try another state)'. He moved on and now fate has decided that he will play for the United States.

***

It's nighttime in Houston and he's driving down a highway with his cell phone loud. It was a great week as USA beat Bangladesh in a series and Harmeet played his part, slamming an unbeaten match with 13 balls and 33 runs.

It was in early 2020 that Harmeet received a call from the United States asking about his willingness to be part of the Major Cricket League in the future. The United States board of directors was looking for professional cricketers who could play in Major League Cricket. He stayed in Atlanta for four months before moving to Seattle. He played minor cricket and coached part-time. In 2021, the United States awarded him a three-year contract and Harmeet retired from all forms of playing in India. According to the rule, if he stays 30 consecutive months in the United States, he is qualified to play for the United States national team. In March 2023, he became eligible to play for Team USA.

His father remembers that at first his son had to do odd jobs. “It was hard for him at the time but he never complained to us. They put him on Airbnb and a few times he worked at a gas pump and shopping malls because he had enough time. He also took the children of an Indian family there, who loved him very much.

Children of Harmeet Singh Harmeet has now rented a small bungalow in Houston and lives with his wife and two children: a daughter and a son (pictured).

For Harmeet, more than wrestling, it was his cricket leveling up that mattered the most. His minor league performance for the Kingsmen club in 2022 was noted and he was chosen for the national team.

“I was coming up the cricket ladder. Here in the United States, people have started to appreciate where I come from. I don't feel any politics. I think in Mumbai I saw that if they wanted to give opportunities, they were given to a few, Peth Bharke (tons of opportunities). And if they don’t want to, they will drop you even if you take five or ten wickets,” he says. Life has also changed in the United States. He says he learned to cook and be self-reliant in all areas.

He's not the only Indian on the U.S. World Cup team. His Mumbai teammates Saurabh Netravalkar and Milind Kumar, who played for Tripura, also did well. But they voluntarily made the rule in the locker room. As there are many sub-continental actors, no one will speak in their native language.

“If anyone speaks in Hindi or Punjabi, they will be fined $20. The dressing room environment is nice and the talent is there, I hope we have a good World Cup,” said Harmeet.

The other day, when he scored that 33rd match, a few messaged him asking if he was the Harmeet who once played for India U-19. “I just laughed, bola haan bhai mein he hoon. Cricket is not very popular, but it is changing slowly and progressing slowly,” he says.

For most Indian players playing in the United States, all eyes are on the match on June 12 when they take on India in a World Cup championship match. Harmeet will play against Rohit Sharmahailing from the same school Swami Vivekanand International, Borivali.

Even before the match he was receiving requests for tickets, he doesn't know how many he can accommodate.

For Harmeet's father, it will be a proud moment to see his son play in the World Cup. “We wanted to see him in India colors but destiny decided otherwise, at least he is playing, that is important. Cricket has been his life and I am happy to see my son fighting,” adds- he.

In the United States, a top player can now have the opportunity to earn around two lakh dollars a year, a reason that has attracted many cricketers. Harmeet has now rented a small bungalow in Houston and lives with his wife and two children: a daughter and a son. “Life is beautiful”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *