India news March 31, 2012

VRV Singh returns, tougher and still hungry

After a back surgery that kept him out of the game for over two years, VRV Singh is on a comeback trail and determined to work through every challenge
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His deliveries still bounce as steeply as they used to when he first played for India as a chubby 21-year old in 2006. That toothy grin, broad and childlike, has not changed. He still runs in like a locomotive struggling to control its momentum as it rumbles downhill. It is hard to believe that last week's Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy match against Assam was VRV Singh's first game for Punjab in more than four years.

Four years. The Indian Test middle order had all of its four big batsmen intact four years ago. Anil Kumble was India's Test captain. The IPL had not yet come to town. And the veteran Pankaj Dharmani was leading Punjab. India's cricket map has been altered in four years. And VRV Singh has seen the best and worst of the life of a professional sportsman in these four years.

All he had wanted to do was to bowl as fast as he could. It was said that he needed his coach to console him if he came back from a game without hitting an opposition batsman on the head. No less an authority on fast bowling than Ian Bishop, the former West Indies quick, was impressed after watching VRV Singh in his debut Test in Antigua in June 2006.

And then the injuries arrived. Foot, ankle, back. VRV Singh still tried to keep going through the pain. His pace dropped, lack of match practice ruined his rhythm. He had ankle surgery in 2008, but got injured during a practice match before the Ranji Trophy in 2009, limiting him to playing for Kings XI Punjab in the IPL that year.

He almost disappeared after that, playing just one match in IPL 2010. Forget India, making the Punjab team was appearing to be improbable. It was then that he made the big decision to go in for back surgery in Australia in late 2010. "Initially, the injury was not that bad. But it did not improve much and went on deteriorating," VRV Singh said. "After IPL 2010, I played some local games to see how it went but it was not good."

A whole year would pass after the surgery, before VRV Singh would be able to resume bowling. "You cannot play around with your body in rehab," he said. "I slowly started with exercise for my lower back and hip muscles, then started working out in the gym, then running and eventually began to bowl from two-three steps." He resumed bowling with his normal run-up around December 2011.

It was way back in March 2008 that he had last played for Punjab. That meant he was starting all over again. So the man who has played five Tests for India turned out like any other probable at the trials for the Chandigarh district team. Did he have any ego issues? He smiles at the question. "I never felt like I was an India player who now had to turn out for district-level teams. When you want to play cricket, you don't have the option to think about such things. After I played some 15-20 games like that they picked me for the Punjab side [for the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament]." You sense he is glad - to just be back on his feet, able to do what he is good at.

But the comeback process was a grind he can never forget. For nearly 18 months VRV Singh had barely touched a ball. The question did come up, but not once did he feel that he should quit the game. "Giving up on cricket was never an option. If I had wanted to do that, I would have never gone in for this surgery. After surgery, I never thought that I won't play cricket. I always had it at the back of my mind that I want to make a comeback. The good thing is, I gave myself time to recover and didn't hurry back."

Though the ultimate objective was quite clear, there were obviously days when the enormity of the task would get to him. And that is where the encouragement from his parents proved to be crucial. "I think family support was the main thing. My parents had the biggest role to play in my comeback. You cannot go around paying attention to negative things said about you. What matters is that you should have the support of people close to you.

"There were days when I used to get frustrated with not playing or not being able to bowl. That is the time when they supported me. They told me to give myself some time, and wait till I was 100% fit and not jump in when I was, say, 90%. Little things matter, like when you are not able to bend to pick up something from the ground and they would do it for you."

"If a player has not played for more than two years then no [IPL] franchise is going to pick him. I wasn't depressed. I would have been depressed if I hadn't had the surgery. I am happy that I am back to normal. After the surgery I have become mentally tougher."

There were others who helped as well. "I have a good friend in Sydney, Surjit Singh, who supported me a lot. Also, Patrick Farhart [the Kings XI physiotherapist]."

He says he has also tweaked his action to lighten the load on his body. "I have changed it a bit and worked on my back-foot landing. Earlier I used to not think much [about my action], but after the surgery I thought that if I slightly modify it to front-on from side-on then it might help make my follow-through easier and it might not [put too much pressure] on the lower body. I tried it in Chandigarh and it was getting better. I am still working on it and hopefully by the middle of this year I will get there."

For now, a haul of eight wickets in four games at an economy-rate of 6.37 was quite satisfactory as Punjab made the Syed Mushtaq Ali final. The bounce he extracted in the competition was steep, the pace decent. "The more I play, the more pace and bounce I will get. I don't think my pace has reduced much after the surgery, it's still the same."

Someone asked him if he was depressed at not having an IPL contract. His reply said it all. "If a player has not played for more than two years then no franchise is going to pick him. I wasn't depressed. I would have been depressed if I hadn't had the surgery. I am happy that I am back to normal. After the surgery I have become mentally tougher. As a fast bowler, when you undergo surgeries, it is tough."

His major concern right now is the lack of match-practice options with the domestic season having ended. "You cannot improve much in local cricket. There will be a few Punjab off-season camps before the next Ranji Trophy. I'll keep working in the gym. But at the moment, matches toh hain nahin [are not there]."

VRV Singh is still not giving up though; he is being pro-active in dealing with this challenge. Immediately after the Syed Mushtaq Ali final he went up to his captain Harbhajan Singh and senior India fast bowler Munaf Patel to seek counsel about the best way to not only stay match fit but also mentally strong. Clearly VRV 2.0 is hungry. He does not want to lose his focus.

Sometimes, you can never win. For two-and-a-half years, he could hardly play. Now when he can, there are no avenues available. But for the moment, VRV Singh is happy about just being able to bowl again. Remind him of his early days, when it was all about pace for him, and he smiles knowingly again.

"I am more mature now. You are obviously wiser at 27 than when you are 21-22. I have understood my body much better now. That fire is still there [though]. It will always be there."

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY ashok16 on | April 2, 2012, 17:50 GMT

    I just hope he stays healthy and has a decent first class career. India or IPL will happen on its own if he is good. Btw what is common to VRV Singh and Batman?

  • POSTED BY Fast_Track_Bully on | April 2, 2012, 5:09 GMT

    @Sehwag_Is_Ordinary. The value of the news is not just 'Talent' but his fighting mentally which will inspire others...not like some 'great' players who 'retire' in one season (middle of an away tour!) and came back in another!

  • POSTED BY Fast_Track_Bully on | April 2, 2012, 5:07 GMT

    @satanswish. If you apply the same for others how many teams will play tests. Only Australia and SA.?

  • POSTED BY Naresh28 on | April 1, 2012, 13:55 GMT

    INDIA should change their policy and look for big, strong cricketers. In bowling we need guys like :- ATUL SHARMA and ABID NABI. In batting tall, strong, fit batsman like the likes Rahul Dravid. Cricket has become like this - talent alone is no longer a factor.

  • POSTED BY on | April 1, 2012, 13:02 GMT

    Come on Guyz, Here is a guyz who is not giving up...He might not have made it big so far in International Cricket but his spirit is something which shows character. So if cricinfo is writing about him, its good. Even he does not succeed still he is trying which should be appreciated.

  • POSTED BY cricket_wins on | April 1, 2012, 12:22 GMT

    Open-chest bowlers tend to come a cropper in India. VRV Singh seems to have corrected his action to make it a bit side-on but the pitches are not suited for a bowler who can merely 'hit the deck'. He has to rely more on swing and in this regard, it would not be a bad idea to consider a county stint. The conditions favor lateral movement and it would do him a world of good to gain his confidence and rhythm back. He has to understand that reverse swing and seam movement will be the key to getting wickets at home, rather than pace off the pitch. I am sure there are people more learned and knowledgeable advising him. Good luck to VRV

  • POSTED BY on | April 1, 2012, 12:02 GMT

    dear VRV , JUST ONE QUESTION HOW DO U MANAGE TO CONCEDE SO MANY RUNS IN JUST 6 BALLS ? U R AN ENIGMA .... R U PLAYING FOR PUNJAB AGAIN,GOD BLESS THEM

  • POSTED BY Sehwag_Is_Ordinary on | April 1, 2012, 9:05 GMT

    What a front page news!! VRV Singh! How talented!!! This man cant hold the ball properly and makes Cricinfo front page- shows the lackluster quality of Indian Bowling overall

  • POSTED BY --.-- on | April 1, 2012, 8:56 GMT

    @ satanswish: Jealous of India ? Even if India decides to QUIT Test Matches, All the other Cricketing boards won't let her do so. You know why ? Because then who'll assure that their future is secure. :)

  • POSTED BY amarnath79 on | April 1, 2012, 6:03 GMT

    God bless VRV. I think there is enough room in the fast bowling department for him to make a comeback.

  • POSTED BY ashok16 on | April 2, 2012, 17:50 GMT

    I just hope he stays healthy and has a decent first class career. India or IPL will happen on its own if he is good. Btw what is common to VRV Singh and Batman?

  • POSTED BY Fast_Track_Bully on | April 2, 2012, 5:09 GMT

    @Sehwag_Is_Ordinary. The value of the news is not just 'Talent' but his fighting mentally which will inspire others...not like some 'great' players who 'retire' in one season (middle of an away tour!) and came back in another!

  • POSTED BY Fast_Track_Bully on | April 2, 2012, 5:07 GMT

    @satanswish. If you apply the same for others how many teams will play tests. Only Australia and SA.?

  • POSTED BY Naresh28 on | April 1, 2012, 13:55 GMT

    INDIA should change their policy and look for big, strong cricketers. In bowling we need guys like :- ATUL SHARMA and ABID NABI. In batting tall, strong, fit batsman like the likes Rahul Dravid. Cricket has become like this - talent alone is no longer a factor.

  • POSTED BY on | April 1, 2012, 13:02 GMT

    Come on Guyz, Here is a guyz who is not giving up...He might not have made it big so far in International Cricket but his spirit is something which shows character. So if cricinfo is writing about him, its good. Even he does not succeed still he is trying which should be appreciated.

  • POSTED BY cricket_wins on | April 1, 2012, 12:22 GMT

    Open-chest bowlers tend to come a cropper in India. VRV Singh seems to have corrected his action to make it a bit side-on but the pitches are not suited for a bowler who can merely 'hit the deck'. He has to rely more on swing and in this regard, it would not be a bad idea to consider a county stint. The conditions favor lateral movement and it would do him a world of good to gain his confidence and rhythm back. He has to understand that reverse swing and seam movement will be the key to getting wickets at home, rather than pace off the pitch. I am sure there are people more learned and knowledgeable advising him. Good luck to VRV

  • POSTED BY on | April 1, 2012, 12:02 GMT

    dear VRV , JUST ONE QUESTION HOW DO U MANAGE TO CONCEDE SO MANY RUNS IN JUST 6 BALLS ? U R AN ENIGMA .... R U PLAYING FOR PUNJAB AGAIN,GOD BLESS THEM

  • POSTED BY Sehwag_Is_Ordinary on | April 1, 2012, 9:05 GMT

    What a front page news!! VRV Singh! How talented!!! This man cant hold the ball properly and makes Cricinfo front page- shows the lackluster quality of Indian Bowling overall

  • POSTED BY --.-- on | April 1, 2012, 8:56 GMT

    @ satanswish: Jealous of India ? Even if India decides to QUIT Test Matches, All the other Cricketing boards won't let her do so. You know why ? Because then who'll assure that their future is secure. :)

  • POSTED BY amarnath79 on | April 1, 2012, 6:03 GMT

    God bless VRV. I think there is enough room in the fast bowling department for him to make a comeback.

  • POSTED BY satanswish on | April 1, 2012, 4:37 GMT

    He is just another bowler in a group which concedes 300 & 200 runs to opposition batsmen in ODI & T20 format consistently. India should stop playing Test matches as they don't have bowlers who can pickup 20 wickets for the format.

  • POSTED BY on | April 1, 2012, 1:22 GMT

    The GEM, a few of you mentioned, reminds me. Jesse Rider started travelling with a personally assigned psychologist. Perhaps the GEM also should do that; then he may become a real gem. The shine is almost always covered with the muck he himself stirs up and wallows in. He needs help. And, deserves it.

  • POSTED BY on | April 1, 2012, 1:14 GMT

    How do you choose a particular cricket player to write about? What is the guiding criterion?

  • POSTED BY thebrownie on | March 31, 2012, 21:01 GMT

    hahaha.. Had to laught at "India FAST Bowler" Munaf!

  • POSTED BY on | March 31, 2012, 18:28 GMT

    Hope he is back soon.........India needs bowlers like him.....Although he needs to learn to move the ball. With his hit the deck hard tactic of bowling...he can be a really asset is someone can work with him on landing the ball on the seam on the current angle. Umesh Yadav seems to have learned this pretty quickly. He is also one of them who has the right attitude for a fast bowler. Hope he finds a good guide

  • POSTED BY on | March 31, 2012, 17:26 GMT

    GREAT STORY HOW WE FORGET THE PPLS,,AND HOW THEY MAKKE COME BACK...IT WILL BE NICE TO SEE VRV IN INDIAN TEAM AGAIN

  • POSTED BY aryan-is-dravid-fan on | March 31, 2012, 16:59 GMT

    With his best years still ahead of him in terms of maturing as a pace bowler, he could make it back to team India - just like Zaheer, Nehra and Srinath got smarter in their late 20's. I wish our media reports such injuries and why a player is off the radar while us fans are under the impression that he must not be in good form. I follow cricinfo and other cricket avenues closely, but had no idea poor VRV was dealing with an injury all this while !

  • POSTED BY on | March 31, 2012, 16:41 GMT

    Good recovery by VRV.Wishing him all the best.

  • POSTED BY sasikiran on | March 31, 2012, 16:34 GMT

    As Ishant is going for a surgery and will mis the IPL 2012, Why not Deccan Chargers consider VRV Singh as his replacement... His Punjab mate MS Gony is also there in the team.. These two rattled the MP batsman claiming 4+3 wickets in the recently concluded Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy... Hope this pair could do some good to the weak looking Deccan Chargers team which need another quality Indian pacer in their side...

  • POSTED BY PMKKR on | March 31, 2012, 16:28 GMT

    I feel he should be fairly given a chance as he is not that old and in my opinion Kings XI management should allow him to practice with their team so by this his moral will get boost and he will again start feeling that he can still run and bowl. May be this opportunity will be without any contract and BCCI or Punjab Cricket board should bear his travel and living expenses, where ever the team is travelling. It will be bonus or will be great obliged given to him by Kings XI if their management bear all these expenses for him. Good luck VRV, hope God will listen your VOICE. (Sukh may sab saathi dukh may na koyaye). Morel, don't forget God when there is a Sukh.

  • POSTED BY Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on | March 31, 2012, 16:25 GMT

    I agree with some posters here. Sreesanth is such a GEM that it is very saddening to see him disappear into the oblivion. Hope good sense prevails and he learns to channel his energies in the right direction.

  • POSTED BY VickGower on | March 31, 2012, 16:16 GMT

    Hope he got support from BCCI/other cricketers. If not, then it is exactly the kind of disincentive for Indians to not get into fast bowling.

  • POSTED BY Built_4_the_Kill on | March 31, 2012, 15:52 GMT

    Most of the journalists are freelance or may I say prefer to stay as freelance. Being freelance give them the opportunity to sell their articles to both parties, Subject and Publisher. There is nothing wrong in it. Players like VRV Singh who probably were forgotten longtime back need these freelance writers to bring some attention of selectors as well as cricket followers back on them. Again from the player's perspective it is nothing wrong... he is investing in his future. Whether or not VRV Singh has progressed as a bowler.. it is yet to be seen. One thing is for sure, if he is what he used to be then his chances are very slim to play for India since there is another waste named Ishant is already playing in Indian team. I think Sreesanth is much better bowler than Ishant, VRV, Irfan. He bowls good on dead wickets however he is not very affective on bouncy wickets. He is very aggressive and all he need to do is to let his brain control his aggression. He'll be a GEM for India.

  • POSTED BY on | March 31, 2012, 15:52 GMT

    " He still runs in like a locomotive struggling to control its momentum as it rumbles downhill.."

    How picturesque!! That was exactly the first image struck my mind when I went through the title !!

  • POSTED BY on | March 31, 2012, 14:40 GMT

    If Sreesanth has spark left in him, he will comeback. He has contract with RR in IPL 2012. I think he is still best in terms of pace and swing. I have been seeing him swinging the cricket ball like anything at a brisk pace nearing 147-150 Km/hr. But VRV's case is something different and I never saw him producing any victories for team India.

  • POSTED BY Unmesh_cric on | March 31, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    All the best, VRV! I was wondering why he wasn't picked by any of the IPL franchises...wasn't aware of his injury. VRV is a good back-of-length bowler and has a good bouncer. His batting is a bit funny; but he had a very crucial last-wicket partnership with Ganguly in the South Africa tour.

  • POSTED BY AvidCricFan on | March 31, 2012, 14:07 GMT

    He is a fighter. Hope he fully recovers. Now on Sreesanth, there is not much to write. He is the most underachiever of his talent. I don't think he is underrated by media. In fact, he may be overrated by some of his fans.

  • POSTED BY Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on | March 31, 2012, 13:35 GMT

    Good luck VRV. No simple matter to suffer such injuries as a fast bowler. Look at Shane Bond. How prematurely he career ended. Once again, good luck to you VRV.

  • POSTED BY on | March 31, 2012, 13:31 GMT

    TOUGH TIME DONT LAST, TOUGH GUYS DO, Hope to See him bowl again for India, Good Luck Champ

  • POSTED BY vik56in on | March 31, 2012, 13:11 GMT

    Why doesn't anyone write about Sreesanth? He must be the most unlucky and underrated bowler in the worlld! Even after leading Team India to remarkable Test wins against S Africa and Sri Lanka cricket writers just hate him but they try to prop up somebody like VRV .

  • POSTED BY Mr.Shrek on | March 31, 2012, 11:56 GMT

    Its nice both for VRV and for cricinfo. For VRV, because for a moment in time, I had thought that he was lost in the oblivion like the one hit wonder kid. But this insightfull interview shows what the exact story was and how VRV is approaching the current phase in his sporting life. And for Cricinfo, credit to them for bringing out these not so important stories to the light of general public, (true journalism). Now one just prays that VRV takes his time to make his comeback, and does not rush, he should know that if he has the talent in him, than his time will come, and no force can deny him that. My only advice to VRV - just keep it simple - let your work do the speaking for you, rather than your words. All the best.

  • POSTED BY ac_Indian on | March 31, 2012, 11:07 GMT

    I agree with Shekhar here. We all agree that ipl is something which needs to be managed carefully while keeping our priorities right. We all may have our opinion about this, but we cannot ignore the positives which have come out of ipl. We expect the journalists of cricinfo to put out a balanced picture, or at least to choose their words carefully. Apart from that, I appreciate the fact that you have brought up the case of VRV. We must ponder why so many promising bowlers fade away in India, and this has been happening since 90's. I don't think pitches are the main reason as pitches are similar in Pakistan and SL as well. Good luck to VRV.

  • POSTED BY SamRoy on | March 31, 2012, 10:59 GMT

    How can we forget Vikram Raj Veer Singh? Such a wonderful name and such an overhyped bowler. Was hyped as the quickest bowler in the country. Was bowling gun barrel straight in SA. No swing, no seam movement, no cutters just gun barrel straight at 140 kph in the most helpful seaming and swinging conditions in the world. I think he took 0 or 1 wicket in the 2 test he played for India in SA. I hope he has learned the art of swinging the ball otherwise he is going to be cannon fodder, again.

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  • POSTED BY SamRoy on | March 31, 2012, 10:59 GMT

    How can we forget Vikram Raj Veer Singh? Such a wonderful name and such an overhyped bowler. Was hyped as the quickest bowler in the country. Was bowling gun barrel straight in SA. No swing, no seam movement, no cutters just gun barrel straight at 140 kph in the most helpful seaming and swinging conditions in the world. I think he took 0 or 1 wicket in the 2 test he played for India in SA. I hope he has learned the art of swinging the ball otherwise he is going to be cannon fodder, again.

  • POSTED BY ac_Indian on | March 31, 2012, 11:07 GMT

    I agree with Shekhar here. We all agree that ipl is something which needs to be managed carefully while keeping our priorities right. We all may have our opinion about this, but we cannot ignore the positives which have come out of ipl. We expect the journalists of cricinfo to put out a balanced picture, or at least to choose their words carefully. Apart from that, I appreciate the fact that you have brought up the case of VRV. We must ponder why so many promising bowlers fade away in India, and this has been happening since 90's. I don't think pitches are the main reason as pitches are similar in Pakistan and SL as well. Good luck to VRV.

  • POSTED BY Mr.Shrek on | March 31, 2012, 11:56 GMT

    Its nice both for VRV and for cricinfo. For VRV, because for a moment in time, I had thought that he was lost in the oblivion like the one hit wonder kid. But this insightfull interview shows what the exact story was and how VRV is approaching the current phase in his sporting life. And for Cricinfo, credit to them for bringing out these not so important stories to the light of general public, (true journalism). Now one just prays that VRV takes his time to make his comeback, and does not rush, he should know that if he has the talent in him, than his time will come, and no force can deny him that. My only advice to VRV - just keep it simple - let your work do the speaking for you, rather than your words. All the best.

  • POSTED BY vik56in on | March 31, 2012, 13:11 GMT

    Why doesn't anyone write about Sreesanth? He must be the most unlucky and underrated bowler in the worlld! Even after leading Team India to remarkable Test wins against S Africa and Sri Lanka cricket writers just hate him but they try to prop up somebody like VRV .

  • POSTED BY on | March 31, 2012, 13:31 GMT

    TOUGH TIME DONT LAST, TOUGH GUYS DO, Hope to See him bowl again for India, Good Luck Champ

  • POSTED BY Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on | March 31, 2012, 13:35 GMT

    Good luck VRV. No simple matter to suffer such injuries as a fast bowler. Look at Shane Bond. How prematurely he career ended. Once again, good luck to you VRV.

  • POSTED BY AvidCricFan on | March 31, 2012, 14:07 GMT

    He is a fighter. Hope he fully recovers. Now on Sreesanth, there is not much to write. He is the most underachiever of his talent. I don't think he is underrated by media. In fact, he may be overrated by some of his fans.

  • POSTED BY Unmesh_cric on | March 31, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    All the best, VRV! I was wondering why he wasn't picked by any of the IPL franchises...wasn't aware of his injury. VRV is a good back-of-length bowler and has a good bouncer. His batting is a bit funny; but he had a very crucial last-wicket partnership with Ganguly in the South Africa tour.

  • POSTED BY on | March 31, 2012, 14:40 GMT

    If Sreesanth has spark left in him, he will comeback. He has contract with RR in IPL 2012. I think he is still best in terms of pace and swing. I have been seeing him swinging the cricket ball like anything at a brisk pace nearing 147-150 Km/hr. But VRV's case is something different and I never saw him producing any victories for team India.

  • POSTED BY on | March 31, 2012, 15:52 GMT

    " He still runs in like a locomotive struggling to control its momentum as it rumbles downhill.."

    How picturesque!! That was exactly the first image struck my mind when I went through the title !!