Ex-cricketer, Delhi selector and Ishant’s early mentor no more

Manvinder Singh, who had represented Railways and served as Delhi junior selector, had guided India Test pace bowler Ishant Sharma in his teenage years

Manvinder was affected by Covid-19 and his health had deteriorated over the past couple of years. Over the last few months, he had been keeping unwell.

Former cricketer, Manvinder Singh ‘Banka’, who represented Railways and was also part of the India under-19 squad in 1989-90, and later served as Delhi junior selector for a few years, has died. He was 53.

The former batsman, who played eight first-class matches between 1992-93 and 1993-94 scoring 364 runs with three fifties, was one of the early mentors of India Test pace bowler Ishant Sharma and being the only recognised cricketer in Ishant’s neighbourhood helped the lanky pacer in early years.

Manvinder was affected by Covid-19 and his health had deteriorated over the past couple of years. Over the last few months, he had been keeping unwell.

When Ishant was struggling to get admitted to a recognised school in his teens and was on the verge of emotional breakdown, Manvinder had used his acquaintances to get him admitted. He had accompanied him to schools and pushed his case. After rejection from Salwan Public School due to poor academic results, the pacer, who has gone on to play 105 Test matches for India, eventually got admitted to Ganga International School and Rohtak Road Gymkhana cricket club and has never looked back since.

Manvinder himself had been unlucky in early years. He was picked to play for India under-19 against Pakistan under-19 in first youth Test at Ferozeshah Kotla in January, 1990.

However, he was ruled out of the match due to injury.

“I was unlucky to miss that game due to injury but the man who replaced me went on to become a star,” Manvinder had once said.

The man who replaced him was a wiry player, who grabbed the opportunity with both hands and took 3/38 in the game and importantly scored 113 runs at No. 7 in first innings that played a crucial role in India winning the match by three wickets.

That performance propelled him to headlines and he was on flight to England with the India Test team in the summer of that year a few months later. Anil Kumble, the player who had replaced Manvinder and performed in that under-19 match, ended his Test career as India’s top wicket-taker in Test cricket.

Ajay Jadeja, Vinod Kambli and Jatin Paranjpe were the others from that India under-19 side who represented India. Gyanendra Pandey, Ranjib Biswal and Ashish Zaidi went onto become domestic stalwarts.

From Pakistan under-19, Moin Khan, who had led that side, Shakeel Ahmed and Zahid Fazal went on to play for Pakistan Test side.

“I played eight first-class games but then I shifted to Canada for a period, which I believe was not the right decision as it stalled my cricket career,” Manvinder, who returned to Delhi later and worked with Railways, had said.

He is survived by wife Reshma Gandhi, a former India women’s team opener. She and former India captain Mithali Raj made their India international debut in the same match in 1999 against Ireland and had shared a then world record 258-run partnership for the first wicket. Reshma, who made 104 not out in that game, went on to play only one more game, against England in which she made 18 not out after being asked to bat at No. 7. She was surprisingly never included in India team after that.

Mithali, who scored 114 not out in that debut game against Ireland, went to become the highest run-getter in women’s ODI cricket with 7805 runs.

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