It was 25th December 2019. Jharkhand’s pacer Shubham Singh was feeling unwell before the important clash against Kerela in the C K Nayudu Trophy. He didn’t let his illness take over his ambition to do well for the team. In the next four days, Shubham emerged as the match-winner, bagging nine wickets in the match, with a five-wicket haul in the first innings and a four-wicket haul in the second.
Jharkhand has been home to numerous budding cricketers. One such is the 22-year-old Shubham Singh from Deoghar, a small town in Jharkhand. The fiery fast bowler has been among the most talked players in the state and his records in Under-23 cricket prove the talent he possesses. Shubham is a fast-bowler who has the ability to swing the ball both ways and even India’s greatest captain MS Dhoni has appreciated his skills.
Recently, Shubham was called by Mumbai Indians for a camp ahead of IPL 2021 and he feels this opportunity with an IPL franchise will change his fortunes. In an exclusive chat with Cricketbolo, Shubham opens up on his journey from being an avid cricket fan to a professional cricketer, bowling to MS Dhoni in the nets, bunking school to play cricket and much more.
Excerpts from the interview below:
When did you start playing cricket? How was your childhood like?
Ans: I was a toddler when I picked up the bat. My father used to watch cricket and I used to watch with him, but by then, I hadn’t thought about ‘playing’ cricket. However, by watching, I fell in love with cricket. I used to play gully cricket with my friends, but I was only allowed to do fielding. I used to get a chance to bat, but that was quite rare.
I wasn’t allowed to play cricket professionally but there was a free-of-cost camp in Deoghar on April 4, 2011 and that was the only option for me. So I used to play cricket in that camp.
Did your family support you when you decided to become a cricketer? How was their reaction?
Ans: My mother used to support me, but my father wanted me to pursue higher education. Since my family belongs to a small town in Jharkhand, we never used to discuss this (becoming a cricketer). About studies, I knew ‘Ki main kitne paani me hoon’ (I knew what my level was). I used to bunk my school classes to play cricket, but ‘Cricket se kabhi maine chori nhi ki’ (I was never disloyal to cricket.) Whenever I used to play cricket, I used to play with full dedication.
You were in a developing stage of your career, where you were about to do wonders. But because of COVID-19, cricket was suspended. What was the impact of the pandemic on your career?
Ans: Yes definitely. The pandemic had a huge impact. I was the highest wicket-taker for Jharkhand in Under-23 format and was in the top 8 among Indians. I was at a stage where I could’ve entered India Under-23 team. But due to COVID-19, I had to come back to senior state team.
I was in the squad for Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. I got to play only one match, which was against Andhra in Vijay Hazare Trophy, where we were bowled out for 139 and Andhra chased the target inside 10 overs. Unfortunately, I bowled only one over in the match. (Shubham’s bowling figures 1-0-9-0). ‘Ek saal ke karan 2-3 saal piche ho gye’ (Due to 1-year loss, it feels like I’ve lost 2-3 years in my life) But one right thing happened as Mumbai Indians called me here (in Mumbai for a camp ahead of IPL 2021) and now I’m experiencing an entirely different phase. There’s a lot of exposure for me now.
You’ve met MS Dhoni and you’ve got the chance to bowl to him. Tell us about that experience?
Ans: When I met Mahi bhaiya for the first time, i.e. in 2017, that was an incredible experience. I was delighted to meet him. You experience different emotions when you meet people you’ve been watching on TV since years. I also got a chance to face him in the nets and I got him out on the fourth ball by dismantling his off-stump. That was the best moment of my life. After that, Mahi Bhaiya came to talk to us (bowlers) and told me ‘Tumhara ball move krta hai. Tumhara kaam hai bas ache areas me daalna’.
I met MS Dhoni one more time and Virat Singh was also there. I got another chance to bowl to him (MS Dhoni) in the nets and Virat bhai told me ‘Mahi bhaiya tumhare bare me bole hai, ki isko aage lekar jaiye’ (Dhoni has spoken to the coaches about you. He has told them – This guy has talent, he should play in Ranji Trophy)
Is there any advice from MS Dhoni which is etched in your memory?
Ans: There are a lot of advices. He’s such a big player and he’s such a humble guy that you can’t even think of. If you stay with him for 2-3 days, you’ll get an incredible feeling. You’ll feel like he’s your relative. He’s so humble. You can ask him anything without hesitation. It feels so good to talk to him. After practicing, he sits with you, eats snacks with you and gives you a lot of advice. He makes you feel comfortable. He once told me: ‘Tumko kuch nhi sochna hai. Tumhara jo bhi effort hai, vo tumko aake execute krna hai." And one line which has become my life-mantra is: "Tumhara ball swing aur seam krta hai, vo baki ka kaam kr lenga. Tumko bas right areas me daalna hai." (You don’t have to think much about your bowling. You just have to put in effort, bowl in right areas because your ball does a lot of seam and swing)
You’ve played Under-19 and Under-23 cricket. Which is your favorite moment of your career so far?
Ans: We had a match against Kerela and I was unwell the day before. Despite that, I bagged a five-wicket haul in the first innings and followed it with a four-wicket haul in the second. That match has been a memorable one, because I was unwell the day before and I recovered on the next day and helped the team. The momentum which our team got, we carried it into the quarter-finals.
Which IPL team would you like to play for in the future?
Ans: Two teams have always been my favorite – MI and CSK. CSK because Dhoni bhaiya uss team se jude hue hain (Because MS Dhoni plays for them) and MI, because of Sachin sir.
Who is your fast-bowling idol? Have you learnt to swing the ball by watching any player?
Ans: My favorite bowler is James Anderson. I follow him every time. Earlier, I used to copy his bowling action, but due to injury I had to change my bowling action. If I will get a chance, I will definitely meet him.
Which is your favorite innings of MS Dhoni?
Ans: His 183 against Sri Lanka. We were so young at that time, but still I remember because he was the first player from Jharkhand.
What do you like to do in free time, especially when you’re away from cricket?
Ans: Mostly I try to rest and recover my body. I sleep a lot. Whenever I get free time, I sleep. I like to listen songs, especially old ones. I like to talk with my friends, we play cards together. I don’t like to travel much so I spend most of the time in hotel.
Here are some of his bowling videos: