Former Rajasthan fast bowler Shamsher Singh dies
Former Rajasthan fast bowler and selector Shamsher Singh, 40, died of a heart attack on Thursday. Shamsher made his debut for Rajasthan in the 1992-93 season and played his last first-class match in 2002. He took 55 wickets in 33 first-class games and 35 wickets in 26 List A matches, the last of which he played in 2001.
Originally from Hisar in Haryana, Shamsher moved to Jaipur as a child, worked hard as a cricketer and never lost his passion. As part of the Rajasthan selection panel for the last few years, Shamsher encouraged the inclusion of youth, as well as talented fast bowlers like Rituraj Singh.
He was instrumental in convincing the Rajasthan Cricket Associaton (RCA) to appoint former South Africa fast bowler Meryck Pringle as the fast bowling coach in 2011, when Rajasthan successfully defended their Ranji Trophy title. Shamsher was also the manager of the Rajasthan Royals team that won the IPL in 2008. His last job was as the manager of the Central Zone team in the Deodhar Trophy.
Being a former player, Shamsher always empathised with players and coaches and addressed their concerns. For Rituraj, one of Rajasthan's upcoming fast bowlers, Shamsher was an administrator who always guided a player to be a good sportsperson and human being. Last year, during Rajasthan's fifth league match in the Ranji Trophy, Rituraj had a Grade 1 tear in his hamstring. Shamsher made sure the youngster's rehabilitation was well taken care of by the RCA.
"He was the first selector who came up to me and spoke genuinely after I had picked up an injury midway against Gujarat. I was not sure if the injury would heal in time for me to bounce back," Rituraj said." He told me not to worry and he assured me I would be fit to play the next match. That is the kind of confidence you want a selector to instill in a player."
One of the biggest positives Rituraj, and his fast bowling partner Aniket Choudhary, recount about Shamsher was his constant encouragement to dream big. "He was a good motivator. He was a selector who had a real good knowledge about cricket," Rituraj said.
For Choudhary, Shamsher was bada bhai, a big brother and mentor. He was one of the last people to speak to Shamsher, over video chat. While Choudhary was struggling and working hard to rise above district-level cricket in Rajasthan, Shamsher fast-tracked his progress into the Ranji squad.
"I know him from the last two years. I was a student at his Jaipur Cricket Academy," Choudhary. "He spotted me once and told me that he would help me work with good coaches like Meyrick Pringle. I cannot thank him enough that he got a former international bowler like Pringle to work hard with me and that helped me make my first-class debut in the Irani Trophy two years back.
"My life changed completely after I joined his academy. I always believed I would end up playing Ranji only, but after listening to him I have now grown confident that I can aspire to play for India."
Pringle did not believe the news when the academy officials called him. "I even called his phone and there was no answer," said Pringle, who spoke to Shamsher on Thursday. "It is incredible."
Pringle, Rituraj and Choudhary were aware Shamsher was excited about his biggest dream: opening a cricket academy in Jaipur, where he had plans to invite the likes of Glenn McGrath to coach youngsters. "He was a guy who was interested in picking guys from out of the blue and helping them aspire to perform for not only the state but also the country," Rituraj said. "That was his target."
For Pankaj, Shamsher was a forward-thinking administrator. "He wanted to bring the professional culture from overseas to Rajasthan. His academy was part of that project. He wanted us to train with the best coaches, trainers and physios. I don't know anyone else who can now work as hard as he did and achieve that dream."
Pringle said Shamsher was an "extremely positive guy". "Whenever he spoke cricket, you wanted to actually listen. What he achieved at the first-class level he wanted to give back to Indian cricket through his academy."
The popularity of Shamsher extended beyond Rajasthan's Ranji team. "Bobby, as Shamsher was known, played an extremely important role in helping the international and domestic players as our team manager, which paved way for a harmonious team atmoshphere," Rajasthan Royals' chief executive Raghu Iyer said. Shamsher is survived by his wife and two young daughters.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo