Exclusive Interview : ”Am only focussing on the present, not thinking too far ahead”, Says Mandeep Singh : Not too long ago, in fact just two weeks back, a certain Mandeep Singh grabbed the headlines for all the right reasons when he stitched a 113-run partnership with fellow RCB team-mate AB de Villiers, which helped his team seal a phenomenal victory, who at one stage were reeling at 55/3 and were possibly moving towards a defeat. RCB not only won that match, but won it convincingly (by 71 runs) – thanks to a blistering 34 ball 54* by Mandeep Singh.
The 23 year old is currently in Calcutta to participate in the ongoing P. Sen Trophy for Y.M.C.A. While his team was playing the tournament final at the Eden Gardens, Mandeep agreed to give an interview with cricfit.com correspondent, Ritam Basu during the lunch break. With his batting pads on, the Jalandhar- boy spoke candidly about his batting idol, his relationship with RCB skipper Virat Kohli and the road to getting into the national side. He also played CricFit’s customary rapid fire round.
Q: Your father was an athletics coach. How did cricket attract you? Did you get the required support from your family?
Mandeep: I used to love watching Sachin Tendulkar bat and I used to follow him. So, I really love cricket since my childhood. I was very passionate about the game and that was why I got into cricket.
Q: Mandeep Singh was labeled as a ‘star’ in junior cricket. What is the transition like when you step on the senior level from the junior level?
Mandeep: Hmmm…. It has been a bit tough because senior cricket is tougher than junior level and I’ve to be mentally very tough at the senior level. You have to be very strong and you need to work harder. It has been a little tough, but it has been good too. Some seasons went low for me, but, the first 2 or 3 seasons were quite good. You can say that I am getting on with it.
Q: You came into the limelight when you cracked a scintillating 151 in an U-19 match in Australia in 2009. How did you prepare yourself to face the rising deliveries on those bouncy pitches?
Mandeep: Back home, I used to play with a rubber ball on cemented tracks. People used to throw that rubber ball at me from a distance of 16 yards. Those balls seemed to be coming at 150 km/h. Water was also spilled on those pitches so that the ball would fly off after pitching. Even now, I do that kind of stuff.
Q: You play alongside Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh in the state side. What kind of tips do you receive from these greats?
Mandeep: I think they are legends of the game and honestly speaking, aise bohot kam bande maine dekhe hai jo inke tarah ‘down to earth’ hai (I’ve seen very few people who remain as down to earth as them). They are great motivators and idols for all the players of Punjab. I have received some technical advice from them- some batting tips from Yuvraj Singh and I respect both of them.
Q: Nowadays, batsmen love to innovate across the globe. Are you a fan of innovation or a believer of the MCC Coaching Manual?
Mandeep: It depends on which format you are playing. If you are playing T20s, you need to innovate, but if you are playing a four-day game or a one-day game, you need to stick to conventional cricket. As a batsman, you should prepare yourself to play in any situation and in any format.
Q: Recently, Virat Kohli lauded you in a post-match interview after the eliminator against Rajasthan Royals. What kind of a rapport do you share with him?
Mandeep: (Says spontaneously) We are North Indians. He (Virat) is very expressive and enthusiastic about the game. We love to play cricket and played a hell lot of FIFA on the console during the IPL. So, he is a very cool man.
Q: In the IPL, you have played for as many as 3 franchises (KKR, KXIP and RCB). Has your experience at RCB been the best so far?
Mandeep: You can say so because Virat and AB being there, I learned a lot from these people. Even when I was in KXIP, I learned a lot from Adam Gilchrist. Yeah. You can say that RCB has been really good so far.
Q: RCB’s USP this season has been their brave youngsters. What makes youngsters like you, Sarfaraz Khan and Yuzvendra Chahal feel comfortable at RCB?
Mandeep: I think the Captain plays a huge part in this. Jitne bhi youngsters aate hai, sab ghul mil jaate hai (The youngsters who come in gel well with the team). I felt as if I was playing for RCB for the last 5 years. Every player in the team cooperates with one another and those are the things that make the dressing room environment a comfortable one. To be honest, I was a bit nervous in the first few games, but later I settled down. As I said before, the Captain was the key man in making this possible.
Q: You put up a fabulous partnership with AB de Villiers in the eliminator against RR. What was it like watching him from the other end?
Mandeep: Oh. He is a super human! I felt really great watching him from the non-striker’s end. Let me tell you an interesting thing. When I had scored around 27* in that match, I went up to him and told him that I was loving the moment. I didn’t want to get out. Obviously, it is like a dream to play alongside him.
Q: Mandeep, it is time for you to play Cric Fit’s rapid fire round.
Q: Your nickname.
Mandeep: Mandy. My family calls me ‘Manni’ though.
Q: Your favorite cuisine.
Mandeep: Punjabi food.
Q: Your favorite movie.
Mandeep: There are many. ‘’Namastey London’’, ‘’Iqbal’’ and ‘’Rocky 4’’.
Q: Your favorite cricketer.
Mandeep: Earlier it was Sachin paaji. Now it’s Virat.
Q: Your favorite holiday destination.
Mandeep: New Zealand.
Q: You’re Hobby.
Mandeep: (Smiles) Playing football.
Q: Longer version or limited overs format?
Q: Describe ‘Kohli: The skipper’ in one word.
Q: If not a cricketer, then what?
Mandeep: (Smiles again) Actor or a footballer.
Q: You have seen Mitchell Starc closely this year. What kind of a routine does he follow in the practice sessions?
Mandeep: Quite normal. He was suffering from his back injury. So, he kept things pretty light.
Q: The last question. When you received the ‘IPL Emerging Player of the Year’ award in 2012, many thought that a call up to the national side was not far away. What does Mandeep Singh have to say about this?
Mandeep: Frankly speaking, I was thinking too far ahead. As you said, I was thinking of getting into the Indian side too early, rather than playing good cricket. My focus had shifted to getting into the national side and that put me under a lot of pressure, because of which 2012/13 season was an average one. That was a setback for me. Many people ask me questions with regards to what I think of breaking into the Indian team. I am not concerned about my selection any longer. I just want to play good cricket. Even in the P. Sen Trophy, which I am playing right now, I want to score as many runs as possible. I want to improve as a player. I have learnt a lot of things from AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli regarding my technique and I want to implement those advices. I am trying to be a better cricketer. That’s it..