Maninder-singh

Maninder Singh, born June 13, 1965, is a former left-arm spinner who made his debut for India at the age of only 17, and retired from cricket a decade later. On his 50th birthday, Shiamak Unwalla lists out 10 interesting facts about the man whose escalating potential was never recognised at the highest level.

1. A record broken by Sachin

At the time of his Test debut, Maninder was only 17 years and 193 days old, which made him the youngest ever Indian debutant. His record was broken by the one and only Sachin Tendulkar.

2. An ironic piece of advice

When Tendulkar made his debut in 1989, Maninder was part of the Test team. The young Tendulkar struggled a bit for runs, but bowled leg-breaks regularly in the nets. Impressed with his bowling, Maninder told him, “Sachin, if you concentrate on your leg-spin, in case you don’t score runs, you can play for India as a bowler. You are so brilliant!” The anecdote was revealed by Maninder himself to Nishad Pai Vaidya.

3. Burdened by expectations

Being a classical left-arm spinner with variations in flight and dip, the comparisons between Maninder and Bishan Singh Bedi were inevitable, though preposterous. Maninder said that the pressure of expectations weighed him down. After his initial success, a loss of form and overworking in the nets caused him to lose his rhythm and flow. He later said that with the simple help of a mental conditioning coach or even some guidance from senior spinners he might have recovered his form and had a fruitful career. It is said that most spinners mature with age, but loss of form and confidence and a lack of guidance caused him to retire from First-Class cricket at the age of only 27.

4. Excellent numbers

Maninder’s career was brief, but he managed a few records in the process. His One-Day International (ODI) economy rate of 3.95 is exceptional, second only to Kapil Dev among Indians with at least 50 wickets. In addition, this economy rate of his is the best among all left-arm spinners in history with over ODI 50 wickets.  Maninder was a huge success in the 1987 World Cup. His 14 wickets and an average of 20.0 were the best in the tournament for a spinner, while his economy rate of 4.00 was second among bowlers with at least 10 wickets.

5. Not quite 100

His batting in Tests fetched him exactly 99 runs in 38 innings — still the most innings ever played without getting to 100 runs in Tests. To put this in perspective, even the most ‘celebrated’ tail-enders in history such as Chris Martin, Glenn McGrath, and Courtney Walsh had over 100 Test runs!

6. An infamous dismissal

Maninder’s most important innings was one that ended in heartbreak. It also caused one of the most dramatic climaxes in Test cricket. The famous Test between India and Australia at Chennai ended in a tie after Maninder was out LBW off the penultimate delivery of the match with the scores level. Till date, Maninder maintains that there was an inside edge, and he was not out.

7. A mug no more

Despite Maninder’s terrible batting record in international cricket, his First-Class record is far from abysmal. However, this was largely due to a shocking upward surge he showed in his batting ability toward the end of his First-Class career. His first 107 First-Class matches yielded 501 runs at 8.79, but his last 38 brought him 886 runs at a staggering 35.44 with four fifties and a ton, according to Abhishek Mukherjee.

8. A man of many talents

After his days as a player, Maninder served as umpire, coach, and commentator.

9. Drug problems

Maninder found himself in a drug-related controversy when he was arrested with 1.5 grams of cocaine in 2007. Maninder later revealed that he had started taking drugs in the Netherlands a decade ago.

10. Suicide attempt?

Maninder was again mired in controversy when he was rushed to the hospital with slit wrists in 2007. Though the official statement from his friends and family was that it was an accident, it is widely considered to have been a covered-up suicide attempt.

(Shiamak Unwalla is a former reporter with CricketCountry.A self-confessed geek who loves cricket more than cricketers,his Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)