In his 17th domestic season, Yashpal has a new team in Manipur and continues to wage a lonely battle.
In his 17th domestic season, Yashpal has a new team in Manipur and continues to wage a lonely battle.

Domestic heavyweight Yashpal Singh knows all about waging a lone battle. For 14 long years  he was Services’ crisis man scoring 6461 first-class runs at an average of 51.27 and 3124 List A runs at 53.86. For the last two seasons, he represented Tripura in a similar role, scoring 687 runs in first-class cricket at 31.22 and 526 in List A games at 52.60.

In his 17th domestic season, Yashpal has a new team in Manipur and continues to wage a lonely battle. In seven Vijay Hazare Trophy matches for the new entrants, Yashpal scored 488 runs at 122.00, and as the team prepares for their maiden Ranji Trophy appearance, he knows the onus will be on him to deliver.

“I had a bit of an idea that this [stint with Manipur] was not going to be easy, and after playing with them, I felt it will take time for the players to develop, but my job remains the same, to play well,” Yashpal tells CricketCountry.

With 117 first-class matches under his belt, Yashpal has seen it all. He helped a middling team like Services to the Ranji Trophy semi-finals in the 2013-14 season and has had to endure the tough luck of leading the the side without a win over an entire season.

But for Yashpal, like many other domestic veterans who are playing for one of the nine new teams this year, it is an opportunity to continue playing and help the youngsters find their feet at this level.

“The mindset that I came here with was that to share my experiences with the guys,” he says. “To make them understand how to play first-class cricket, and they are learning and it is a learning curve for me as well. There are few guys here I think you want to pursue cricket in the long term and they are very much invested.”

Manipur finished sixth in the Plate Group in the recent Vijay Hazare Trophy with two wins and five losses. Not surprisingly, Yashpal was their highest run-getter with 488, inclusive of three centuries and a fifty. The next best was 123 runs in seven matches by Prafullomani Singh.

yashpal

The 36-year-old, who is the only Services player to feature in the IPL (for Kolkata Knight Riders), admits that Manipur has a long way to go before they can be competitive in the Indian domestic circuit.

“I would say at least three to four years. Teams like Bihar, where a cricketing structure have been in place for a while, and Uttarakhand where a lot of guys from Uttar Pradesh have gone to play, and Puducherry, where you see a lot of Tamil Nadu and Kerala guys, are at an advantage as compared to the North East states,” says Yashpal, who honed his skills in Delhi under the watchful eyes of Dronacharya Awardee Tarak Sinha in the late 1990s.

“We here at Manipur don’t have that kind of luxury. There are some associations who don’t  even have their own grounds in the North East. We also don’t have that kind of infrastructure as well. The officials are supportive and are doing their best, but we need grounds and better wickets to prepare well.”

It is still early days for states like Manipur, but Yashpal reckons there is no dearth of talent.

“Rex Singh is a very good player and did well in the Under-19 level. There is also a very good batsman in Priyojit Singh, who is doing good in the U-23 level. It is all about practicing and keeping the faith and we can do well.  We also have two good outstation players in Lakhan Rawat from UP and Jatin Bhanot from Haryana, so we are hopeful of a good season,” he says.

Manipur open their campaign against fellow North East team Sikkim in Kolkata on November 1.