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Hercules Champions
Sarandeep Singh: Talent that can't be suppressed

The National Selection Committee may not have found any off spinner worthy of being included in the 23 probables for the ICC KnockOut tournament but the cupboard is by no means bare. Five of the top ten wicket takers in the Ranji Trophy last season were all practitioners of this trade. One of them is Punjab youngster Sarandeep Singh who will complete 21 on October 21. The lad from Amritsar scalped 37 victims at 19.43 in just his second season in first class cricket. In four Ranji one-day games in the North Zone league, he bagged eight wickets at a miserly 12.75 showing that he is competent enough to handle the demands of the shorter version of the game too. Indeed Sarandeep fancies himself as an allrounder and 196 runs in the Ranji Trophy at an average of 49, boosted by five not outs, would suggest that he's not exactly a rabbit with the bat.

After playing Under 16 cricket for Punjab and North Zone and then at Under 19 level for his state, Sarandeep was blooded into first class cricket in the 1998-99 Ranji Trophy North Zone league against Haryana at his home town of Amritsar. He made 45 on debut, a legacy of having started his career as a batsman in junior cricket, but went wicketless in the only innings he bowled. Sarandeep was quickly into his stride with a bag of 3/99 against Rajasthan in the Super League followed by a superb spell of bowling against Hyderabad which first made pundits sit up and take notice. His match haul of eight wickets took Punjab to the brink of victory but the effort was thwarted by the fickleness of the batsmen who failed to chase a target of 176. Before the season was out, Sarandeep was playing for the India Under 19's against the touring Sri Lankans.

Sarandeep's swift rise was recognised by the National Cricket Academy which selected him among its first batch of trainees in May. After a tough four month grind at the NCA, punctuated by lessons from such legendary masters of the craft like Prasanna and Venkataraghavan, he has a few moments to reflect on all the advice imbibed during the course of his training. With the 2000-2001 Ranji season erupting on October 30, there is little time for repose. A few flourishes in the early part of the calendar could see him step up into a higher realm before the season is through.

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Sarandeep Singh

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