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Ignored by Mumbai, Harmeet Singh retires to play in US | Cricket News


MUMBAI: Amongst the plethora of India’s domestic cricketers to have retired from Indian cricket and moved to play professional cricket in the US in recent times is left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh.
The 28-year-old has signed a three-year contract with Major Cricket League in the US and is playing for Seattle Thunderbolt this season. Incidentally, Harmeet’s captain in India’s 2012 under-19 World Cup-winning team, Unmukt Chand, has moved to the US to play in the Major Cricket League.
In 31 first-class games, Harmeet picked up 87 wickets@34.18, while also scoring 733 runs@15.59, including a hundred.
“I retired (in July) because I wasn’t getting to play for Mumbai, which is my home team. I’m getting good money to play cricket here, which gives me a sense of security. The level of cricket is good too,” Harmeet told TOI from Seattle.
The tweaker moved to the US last year, and, like many Indian players who’ve retired from India cricket and shifted to the US, now hopes to play for them in the future. “If you stay in the US for 30 consecutive months, you qualify to play for the US national cricket team. I’ve completed 12 months, so 18 are left. By the beginning of 2023, I should be eligible to play international cricket for the US. By then, I would be 30. For a spinner, that’s prime age,” he said.
Harmeet has quit Indian cricket with one big regret: Lack of opportunities. “I made my debut for Mumbai back in 2009, but never got one full season to prove myself. Still, till 2017, I kept pursuing my dream to play for Mumbai. Basically, in almost a decade, I got to play just nine games for Mumbai. I didn’t even get an opportunity to fail! I was never given a chance to prove myself,” he rued.
Continuous snub by the Mumbai selectors forced Harmeet to play for Tripura in 2017. “I’m thankful for the chance that Tripura gave me. When I played for them in the 2017-18 season, I played a full Ranji Trophy season for the first time in my life. That experience taught me how to keep myself fit throughout the season. Still, as a professional player, there’s no assurance of your spot on the team. If your performance goes down, you can be dropped too. They wanted me to play for them last year, but then I had to live here continuously to qualify to play for the US,” he explained.
For someone who was hyped up and earned the praise of former Australian skipper Ian Chappell and Bishan Singh Bedi with his fine show during India’s Under-19 World Cup triumph in Australia, Harmeet was shell-shocked to be ignored repeatedly by Mumbai.
“After coming back from that World Cup, I played in the Irani and Duleep Trophy tournaments, and picked up four wickets in each game. Still, Mumbai didn’t play me in a Ranji Trophy game just 10 days later! For the next three years, I was ignored consistently. This was despite the fact that I had an offer from Anirudh Chaudhary to play for Haryana, but the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) officials assured my father that I would be given chances to play for Mumbai. It’s amazing! The national selectors had belief in me, which is why I was being picked for these tournaments, but the Mumbai selectors had no faith in me! They would call me for practice matches, in which I would get top batsmen out, and still not get picked. I once even told a selector: ‘Why do you keep calling me for these selection matches when you don’t want to pick me? Please don’t insult and humiliate me like that! If you don’t want to pick me, that’s fine. You want me to be a net bowler, I’m fine with that, but at least don’t give me hope!,” he recalled, the pain in his voice visible.
During this period, one of the few people who believed in him was batting legend Rahul Dravid, who was then the mentor of the Rajasthan Royals. “I can’t thank Rahul bhai enough. He called me to join RR when I wasn’t playing at any level for Mumbai,” he said.
What could be the reason he was snubbed by Mumbai for so long? “None ever gave me a reason why I wasn’t being picked. A few people said that I had attitude problems and disciplinary issues. C’mon, I was just 17 or 18 at that time. Many big players in Indian cricket went astray at that age. Even in the Indian team right now, we all know of a few players who had disciplinary issues in the past. I still deserved to get my chances,” he asserted.
Finally, Harmeet staged a return to the Mumbai team in the 2014-15 season. “I played two games — picking four wickets against Baroda and six against Karnataka on a flat track to help Mumbai qualify for the knockouts. At that time, people said: ‘His bowling action has changed.’ Now, if I keep sitting at home, how will it not affect me! Those who began their career with me had played 80 first-class games, and I was struggling to even complete 10!,” he recalled.

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August 22, 2021, 5:43 pm

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