Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

IPL 2024: Picked by 'accident', Shashank Singh turns out to be the real Punjab King

The player hasn't had many opportunities to play in the IPL but ensures he does his best every time he walks out to bat

Published: Apr 5, 2024 03:05:42 PM IST
Updated: Apr 5, 2024 03:13:02 PM IST

IPL 2024: Picked by 'accident', Shashank Singh turns out to be the real Punjab KingPunjab Kings' Shashank Singh plays a shot during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Lucknow Super Giants and Punjab Kings at the Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on March 30, 2024. Image: Arun Sankar / AFP
 
“When I go to bat, I have to believe I am the best,” Shashank Singh said after his match-winning performance in the Indian Premier League (IPL) on April 4 at Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad.
 
Only a few have self-belief as strong as Singh’s. It needed a character like him to overcome a blunder that Punjab Kings made in the 2024 IPL Auction. They raised the paddle to buy Shashank Singh but once the auctioneer’s hammer came down, they indicated they had bought the wrong player. There was another player with the same name, hence the confusion.
 

Punjab Kings later issued a clarification saying they always intended to buy the Shashank they got and it wasn’t a mistake. But many believe it was just damage control. Whatever the reason, the 32-year-old must have felt devastated that day since Punjab Kings refusing to take him at the auction was trending on social media.
 
But the Madhya Pradesh-born cricketer is a tough character. Despite having been around for a long time, he has rarely got any opportunities to play in the IPL. However, he is still confident and ensures he does his best every time he walks out to bat.
 
On Thursday, Punjab Kings were in deep trouble when Singh came to the crease. They had lost four wickets on 70 runs in 8.4 overs while chasing a target of 200 runs. There was not much batting left for them while Gujarat had a lot of overs pending from their best bowlers. It was an uphill task to even come closer to the target. The match seemed to be almost over for Punjab.
 
With no hopes left, Singh decided to show the world, and more importantly to Punjab Kings, that they had not made a mistake by picking him. The right-handed batter picked his spots smartly and went after almost every Gujarat bowler to turn it around in no time. He smacked an unbeaten knock of 61 runs off 29 balls to take Punjab home in the last over with three wickets in hand. Ashutosh Sharma, making his debut, also scored a valuable cameo of 31 runs in 17 balls.
 
Singh was widely lauded for his knock. He has rarely got the attention he deserves as he is highly underrated despite having all the abilities a good finisher needs. His journey goes back to the late nineties when his father, Shailesh Singh, an Indian Administrative Officer (IAS), after watching India lose the 1996 World Cup semi-final, decided to make his son a cricketer.
 
It was unusual but Shashank’s father was a cricket fan and didn’t hesitate to take this call. Initially, he played for the Madhya Pradesh under-15 and under-17 teams and then when his father was transferred to Mumbai, he started his cricket journey there, which was a challenge in itself.

Also read: IPL 2024: India's T20 future is secure with Abhishek Sharma and Tilak Varma

 
“Everyone is talented in Mumbai, but I managed to do well in white-ball cricket. Though it was just four games. I scored runs in the Kanga League and then I represented Mumbai in the under-19, under-21, under-23 and under-25 levels,” Singh told Wisden in December 2022.
 
He later went on to play for Mumbai's senior team but due to lack of opportunities, he had to make a switch to his home state– Chhattisgarh. Afterwards, he played domestic cricket for them and continued to do well. He acquired the skills and thought big hitting suited him more. He started batting down the order and joined the tough job of a finisher.
 
He was bought by Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) in the 2017 IPL auction but did not get any matches before they released him ahead of the next season. In 2019, Rajasthan Royals picked him but again he was not given a single match in three straight seasons. Although Singh continued to play domestic cricket, there seemed to be no headway.
 
However, things changed in 2022 when Sunrisers Hyderabad signed him at the auction. He straightaway impressed the then Hyderabad coach Brian Lara.
 
“When I went to Sunrisers Hyderabad, on the first day, Brian Lara saw me at the nets and asked me, ‘Why haven’t you played in the IPL till now? You have all the shots’,” Shashank said.
 
After years of waiting, the doors finally opened for him and he made his debut for Sunrisers Hyderabad against Chennai Super Kings. He played some blistering strokes, making an instant impact. He played 10 games that season but didn't get a lot of opportunities in the middle to make a case for himself. He either walked to bat in the last few overs or did not get to bat.
 
Singh was confident he had done enough for Hyderabad to keep their faith in him. But to his dismay, they released him ahead of the next season.
“I got a call at 4.45 pm on November 15 [the deadline for announcing the list of cricketers for the IPL 2023 auction], saying I had been released. To be honest, I was not ready for that because I thought they’d retain me. I was sad, but there are a few teams who are looking for someone, and I think I have done decently. I wouldn’t say I haven’t done well in the IPL. Every time I went out to bat, it was a tough situation and whatever I could do, I did. If I get to play this time, I will be smarter. If Sunrisers Hyderabad buys me back, I’ll be very happy. I know I will fit in some teams. But I also know that IPL auctions are all about luck,” he told Wisden in an interview in 2022.
 
In the IPL 2023 auction, he went unsold, which again was a shocker for him. However, instead of cribbing about it, Singh went back and worked harder at the domestic level. This year despite the auction controversy, he kept himself ready for the challenge. After impressing the Punjab Kings' management in the preparatory camp, Singh was straightaway given a place in the Punjab Kings playing XI in the IPL 2024.
 
In three innings so far, Shashank has made 91 runs and got out just once. He won the Player of the Match Award on Thursday and is confident of continuing to do well for his franchise in the upcoming matches as well.
 
“I visualised moments like this. But turning it into reality, I am really happy and proud of myself," Shashank said after the match.