Moving to Ireland took all the pressure off me: Simi Singh

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16 Apr 2020 | 06:30 PM
authorAshish Pant

Moving to Ireland took all the pressure off me: Simi Singh

In an exclusive chat, India-born Simi Singh delves into his early childhood, the move to Ireland, playing international cricket and much more

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From growing up in India, having ambitions of playing for the Indian team, to moving to Ireland to pursue your dream? How has been the journey?

Simi: I had always imagined myself playing cricket at a big stage as a kid, at the time it was obviously playing for India but due to various circumstances the move to Ireland came about, but the transition didnʼt change my mindset too much as the ultimate goal was to play international cricket, in which jersey didnʼt really matter too much. Journey has been a tough one due to unpredictable challenges both on and off the field but I had prepared myself for all that when I left home as a teenager.

Tell us something about your growing up years in Mohali. What are your first memories of playing cricket and when did you think that you could maybe take the sport up professionally?

I must be about 4 or 5 when I got a plastic bat as a gift on my birthday and that was the start of it. That bat always stayed with me even in bed. I always played cricket with my friends on the street, my favourite time of the day after doing my homework was to just play cricket non-stop with my mates. Once I grew a bit older I joined Mohali cricket academy during the summer holidays and that became a permanent hobby for me which later turned into a potential career option when I started getting some success at under-age levels. In particular I won the best allrounder at the U14 All-India national school games.

You have played a lot of school and district cricket in India and with a lot of success. How was it different when you moved to Ireland and did you have to in some way start from scratch?

Cricket in India was very intense, while it was fun and exciting at younger levels it became a burden as I got older. When you put everything on the line for cricket everyone expects you to perform every time you play and every time I failed, felt the monkey on my back got heavier and heavier. I felt suffocated at times and decided I needed a change in life to get away from all this. Moving to Ireland was a breath of fresh air, I felt lighter and had my freedom back. No-one knew who I was and that kind of took all the pressure off. I could just go out and play with joy. If I failed, didnʼt really matter too much which was great. 

When was the first time you thought of moving to Ireland and how tough a decision was it to leave everything behind, your family, friends, and acquaintances to a totally new country? 

It was completely random, my childhood friend had moved to Ireland and as he was always interested in my cricket he rang me to see how it was going, my response wasnʼt what he was expecting and he suggested coming to Ireland for a season and try it out. That was it! The idea just clicked with me straight away and I had made up my mind I was going away. It was extremely tough leaving everyone behind and moving to a foreign country with a completely different culture and language but that was the sacrifice I had to make to pursue my dream.

What was your parents' reaction like when you told them about your plan? 

My parents thought I was joking and didnʼt take it seriously at all at first but after I told them it was for cricket and I've made up my mind, they supported my decision and made it possible for me to travel to Ireland and do my thing. 

As a follow up, what was your thought process behind moving to Ireland? Did pursuing a career somewhere like Australia or England where cricket has more prominence cross your mind?

Initially I wanted to move to England to try and play county cricket but there wasnʼt much that connected me to England. The more I looked into Ireland and itʼs culture online more I was attracted towards it, also with my friend being already based in Dublin and playing club cricket made my decision a lot easier. 

Simranjit Singh to Simi Singh. After years of toil what were your first thoughts when you finally became an international cricketer for Ireland? Did all the hard work, years of perseverance feel worthwhile?

Of course! It was absolutely worthwhile. I mean when I stepped on to the ground with my Irish jersey on, everything that happened in the past with cricket was put into perspective. There was a feeling of satisfaction that Iʼve fulfilled my dream and no one can take that away from me.

You were primarily a batsman during school cricket racking up runs wherever and whoever you played. While you are still more than handy with the bat, your off-spin is what has really made a lot of waves. How did that happen and have you always been a bowler growing up?

Iʼve grown up opening the batting and just bowled part-time off-spin but as I moved to Ireland, I had lot of free time in the off-season and I had no partner to train with, so it was a lot easier to practice bowling by myself in the nets. Slowly I gained a lot of interest and became more than a part-time spinner which now is my primary skill in the team.

You first came to Ireland in 2006 but only made your international debut in 2016. How did you motivate yourself during those times and were there times when you thought maybe an international cap wasn't meant to be?

Yeah it was a long wait to get my first International cap at the age of 30 in 2017 and it came at a time when I had almost given up on cricket and was looking to pursue my career in the fitness industry. I had made peace with myself that it wasnʼt meant to be. Maybe I wasnʼt good enough but I always believed in hard work and the years prior to that I always kept working on my fitness, skills, mental strength etc, so that if I ever get the chance I was ready for it, that just kept me going.

Playing against India in 2018 would have had been a totally different feeling. Tell us something about that. Did you manage to catch up with the Indian players after the game? What was the discussion like? 

Playing against India was special in so many ways! Such a high profile game, playing in front of a packed crowd, playing against the superstars of cricket but for me it was a chance to show everyone back home what I can do, was thinking to myself what if we beat India, how big would that be but obviously that didnʼt happen and my performance wasnʼt very good which was very disappointing because it meant so much. I just locked myself in the hotel room after the second game. I only went into Indiaʼs changing room to get Dhoniʼs autograph on my jersey because my friend wanted it badly. It was definitely a turning point for me I knew I had to get better and add more variations to my bowling which led me to start bowling leg-spin and the arm-ball along with my conventional off-spin.

What does the future hold for you? Are there any specific goals that you have in mind which you want to achieve before hanging up your boots?

I am excited about the future, Irish cricket has a lot of exciting prospects and would be great to be a part of it. Being a  professional sportsman, any game could be your last and you canʼt take anything for granted so I just enjoy every time I play for Ireland. Feel extremely honoured, I donʼt think beyond that too much, itʼs always about training hard and preparing for the next game.

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