Sikh fast bowler dreams of playing for Pakistan against India

Young fast bowler Mahinder Pal Singh has dreams of becoming the first person from the Sikh community to represent Pakistan in cricket and achieve stardom while playing against arch-rivals India.

"It would mean so much to me to play for Pakistan against India at any level of cricket," he told "If you ask any cricketer, he will say that he wants to play in high-pressure matches, the big occasions where the world is watching.

"India versus Pakistan is always a special occasion and I would love the opportunity to be a part of this occasion at some point in future in my cricketing career."

Mahinder, 24, added that he would "love to be called a hero in a high-tempo match".

He said: "I would like to perform well against a strong opposition and watched by fans all around the world. I have relatives in Punjab in India - my aunt lives there along with many other relatives whom we meet on a regular basis.

"I also have a lot of fans in India, especially from Punjab, who always wish me well and say that if I ever play for Pakistan they will support me and Pakistan in those matches."

Seven non-Muslim cricketers have represented Pakistan in Tests and one-day internationals.

Among them, from Wallis Mathias to Yousuf Youhana (before he became the cricketer formally known as Mohammad Yousuf) are five Christians and two Hindus, but no Sikhs.

Mahinder, a right-handed medium-fast bowler who grew up in Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak, was recently hit hard by the Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB) decision to change the domestic structure and scratch departmental teams.

He is among 400 players who have lost their livelihood due to the reorganisation.

"I last played Grade II cricket in 2017, but unfortunately many players who were playing for departments have not been offered contracts or places with current national-level teams," said Mahinder, whose father Harjeet Singh is a homeopath.

"Only some of the players who were playing for the department teams on a regular basis have been offered places.

"Since I only played the occasional match for my department, at district level or Grade II, I really don't stand a chance to make it to the national-level teams in the current set-up.

"I haven't come through the Under-16 or Under-17 or Under-19 level, so people didn't really know who I was and that's why I've not been picked for any of the current national-level teams."

Mahinder, who aims to play in the Pakistan Super League, said he has encountered discrimination in Muslim-majority Pakistan but he takes it in his stride.

"I've had to struggle a lot and there have been some very tough days, but I am not prepared to give up on my dream," he said. "I have encountered discrimination at many levels and some snide comments, but there are good and bad people everywhere."

Mahinder's earliest attempts to break with his community's conventions and make it into the Pakistan cricket system appeared doomed.

"Nobody in our community has gone that far and taken cricket as his ambition," he said.

For many young Sikh men in Pakistan, playing cricket is merely a recreation - their careers lie in the textile business, like those of generations before them.

A few like Mahinder, who idolises former Pakistan bowling great Waqar Younis, were well known in club cricket in Pakistan - players such as Papinder Singh, Madan Singh and Gulab Singh who played Grade II matches but were never seen again.

"I don't know how far I will go but I want to give it a shot, at least to live my dream," said Mahinder. "I believe I will definitely go somewhere to make my name for my country. But if I lose my way, I have a (pharmacist's) degree (from Punjab University) to secure my future. That way I will not go away with a regret that I didn't try to fulfil my dream."

Indo-Asian News Service


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