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Mandeep Singh – The love and affection of fans

The Punjab batsman says Indian fans make them feel at home on away tours

I can’t thank cricket enough for all that it has given me. Whatever I have is because of cricket. Life has come full circle from the time I took Harbhajan Singh’s autograph as a kid. Now, we have fans showering their affection.

I had fans in school and then slowly had a following in the city. I got to meet more fans when I went out. When we travel, the interactions with local Indians are quite memorable. When I had recently gone to New Zealand with the India ‘A’ team, we met a person who was a big fan of the Kings XI Punjab. He looked after us really well.

He owned a restaurant so he took us there often. He was a huge fan. All that he wanted was a KXIP or India ‘A’ T-shirt, so a few of us signed a T-shirt and gifted it to him. Similar things have happened in Australia as well.

When we travel abroad, fans try to ensure that we feel like we belong and not feel left out or home sick when we visit another country. Sometimes on tours some might have problems with food so the locals help. They are always keen to help and guide us. They look forward to cricketers visiting from India. They know the exact dates, places and timings. It is fun.

When you meet someone from the same community away it always feels good. I am a Punjabi so when I meet another Punjabi there is a bit of an emotional connect when they come talk to you in Punjabi. The first time you meet it’s just a casual greeting. Once when that person comes to watch a match, you meet as you feel he is a genuine fan.

The person I met in New Zealand was from Jalandhar and since I also belong to Jalandar, the emotional attachment happens. When we go to a place we know little about, it helps to know someone from your own land who can guide you around.

When we were in Australia as part of an Under-19 India team a few years back, we went to a restaurant and the first time they didn’t pay too much attention. When we went there again, they had found out that we were part of the India Under-19 team and they took extra care of us and even offered discounts. It was I guess a South Indian restaurant in Perth. They took pictures and we gave them a T-shirt with our autographs.

That’s what you cherish – the affection the hospitality. I feel proud of that. Being able to travel to other countries, the fame and everything else is because of cricket. 

Mandeep Singh

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Unmukt Chand - It’s about enjoying the process, not the outcome

Domestic cricket helps a player nurture his skills and mindset

It’s been five years now since I have been playing in the Ranji Trophy. My debut came quite early when I was 17 years old, studying in the 12th standard. The first season was satisfactory in terms of my performance as I managed a total of 400 runs in 5 matches which included a 151-run score against railways in my fourth game. I consider It as one of my best knocks till date. But now I can say that those were early days. As it is said that a true worth of a new player is gauged in the second season, I failed miserably there.

Now when I look back I can pick up the reasons for my failure. Just before the third season, I had enjoyed the grand success in the Under-19 World Cup. Winning the World Cup in Australia against Australia in the final was something I really cherish. The kind of welcome we received when we came back to India was indeed very heady. It went into my head too as I started expecting too much from myself. My real test had begun. My next two seasons too did not go as expected. Last season, though I scored three centuries early on, but failed again to capitalise in terms of my total tally of runs in the tournament.

Now I know through my experience that the Ranji tournament can bring a huge difference. What matters is how good a season you can make when things are on a roll and likewise how early can you come out of that slump which doesn’t seem to leave you. As there is hardly any gap between the matches, momentum plays a major role. But the length of the tournament is too long for the momentum to carry on, so it’s also about phases; doing your best in those small phases to make an impact. In the later part of the tournament, which is the knockout phase, you have to take on the pressure and perform because your performance in these crucial matches separates you from the rest.

On the philosophical side this game teaches you real good lessons. At times you are on top of the world. But the moment you start relishing it, there begins another phase and you are brought down flat to mother earth. What I have learned through these ups and downs is to keep a balance. Neither be too happy nor be depressed. It is very important to keep working hard on your basics while you are scoring runs. That is how one can achieve consistency. 

I think cricket is the same wherever you play, but finesse is something which changes at each stage. Indeed experience plays a major role. Though sometimes, inexperience also works as you just play your game without thinking too much. Experience brings wisdom to some but some players can start over analysing the game. This can affect your performance. Probably I became a victim of over analysis at some stage which made things really tough for me. But I am happy that phase is over now. I am out of that shell and back to playing this game as an amateur, enjoying every challenge without being judgemental or too critical of myself. Success to me is an after effect of simplicity and calmness, relaxed but yet intensely focussed approach. It is about responding (wisdom) not reacting (impulsive). It is about being able to listen to your inner voice, your gut feeling. Being at peace with myself is the real key for me.

The challenges increase as soon as you enter the man’s world from the U-19 category. It’s like a student graduating from school to college and finding a job. You realize that you are all by yourself, struggling to find your ground, trying new things out, discovering the ways of the world. But isn’t it part of each one of our journeys? A true warrior learns everything and knows how to use his wisdom to assess what he wants at that moment.

Fortunately of late I have been given an opportunity to play for India ‘A‘ regularly. It has really helped me develop as a player. Captaining has been an advantage as it brings out the best in me. It’s good to see so many youngsters featuring in the ‘A’ series from various countries go on and play for their respective senior teams. It gives you motivation believing that you too are not far off. It’s so close but yet too far or maybe the other way around, keeping you charged and on your toes.

Right now my focus is on the Ranji Trophy matches. I want to enjoy playing this game. I must reveal that I have stopped setting goals for myself. I have left my past behind and I do not bother about the future. It’s all about enjoying the moment, enjoying the process and not the outcome. There is so much to learn in so many fronts of life. I keep telling myself to just carry on, stay patient and be joyful. Sky is the limit. 

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