Left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh is one of many Indian cricketers who have quit from domestic cricket and moved to play professional cricket in the US.
The 28-year-old has inked a three-year deal with the Major Cricket League and is currently with Seattle Thunderbolt. Unmukt Chand, Harmeet’s captain in India’s 2012 U-19 World Cup-winning side, has relocated to the US to play in the Major Cricket League.
Harmeet took 87 wickets at 34.18 and scored 733 runs at 15.59 in 31 first-class games.
“I retired (in July) because I couldn’t play for my local team, Mumbai. I feel secure because I get paid well to play cricket here. “The cricket is also good,” Harmeet said from Seattle.
The tweaker relocated to the US last year and, like many retired Indian cricketers, aspires to play for them in the future. “You can play for the US national cricket team if you live in America for 30 months. 12 months down, 18 to go. I should be eligible to play international cricket for the USA by early 2023. I’d be 30 then. “Prime age for a spinner,” he added.
Harmeet abandoned Indian cricket with one regret: missed chances. “I joined Mumbai in 2009 but never got a chance to play a full season. I kept trying until 2017 to play for Mumbai. In nearly a decade, I only got to play nine games for Mumbai. I didn’t even get to fail! “I was never given a chance,” he lamented.
As a result of repeated snubs from Mumbai, Harmeet chose Tripura in 2017. “I’m grateful for Tripura’s chance. With the first time in my life, I played a full Ranji Trophy season for them in 2017-18. That experience encouraged me to stay fit all season. As a professional player, your status on the squad is not guaranteed. If you do poorly, you may be fired. “They wanted me to play for them last year, but I had to live here for two years to qualify,” he said.
Harmeet was stunned to be continuously neglected by Mumbai after earning acclaim from former Australian skipper Ian Chappell and Bishan Singh Bedi for his performance during India’s Under-19 World Cup success in Australia.
“I competed in the Irani and Duleep Trophy competitions after the World Cup and took four wickets in each game. 10 days later, Mumbai didn’t play me in a Ranji Trophy game! I was neglected for three years. Despite Anirudh Chaudhary’s invitation to play for Haryana, MCA officials told my father that I would be given opportunities to play for Mumbai. Amazing! Incredibly, the national selectors chose me for these events, but the Mumbai selectors did not! In practise matches, I would get elite batters out and still not get picked. ‘Why do you keep calling me for selection matches when you don’t want to pick me?’ Please stop insulting and humiliating me! It’s fine if you don’t pick me. “You want me to be a net bowler, OK, but don’t give me hope!” he recalled, his voice broken.
During this time, batting legend Rahul Dravid, then-coach of the Rajasthan Royals, was one of the few who believed in him. “I owe Rahul bhai a lot. “He invited me to RR when I was not playing for Mumbai,” he remarked.
Why did Mumbai ignore him for so long? “No one ever explained why I wasn’t chosen. Some thought I had bad attitude and discipline troubles. I was only 17 or 18 at the time. At that age, many Indian cricketers went wrong. We all know guys on the Indian team who have had disciplinary troubles in the past. “I deserved my chances,” he insisted.
In 2014-15, Harmeet rejoined the Mumbai team. “I took four wickets against Baroda and six wickets against Karnataka on a flat track to help Mumbai qualify. ‘His bowling action has changed,’ people commented then. How can I stay at home and not be affected? “Those who started with me had 80 first-class games, and I was battling to finish 10!” he recounted.