IPL 2013 April 26, 2013

Level head key for Mandeep

Mandeep Singh has evolved to become an important member of the Kings XI Punjab side, and he hasn't allowed that success to get into his head

Before Mandeep Singh moved to Kings XI Punjab last year, had a consistent IPL, and was adjudged the "rising star" of that season, he wasn't unaccustomed to success. He was appointed vice-captain for India's Under-19 World Cup campaign in 2010 and that was followed by an impressive stint in domestic cricket. After the 2012 IPL, he had a productive time for India A in New Zealand and then led Punjab in the Ranji Trophy, all this before he turned 21.

Mandeep's journey from a talented teenager to recognition as a reliable batsman is not unlike that of some others who've let success get into their heads. However, Mandeep comes across the same enthusiastic, yet composed, cricketer he was three years ago. And even after playing a match-winning knock for Kings XI Punjab against Pune Warriors last weekend, another feather in his cap, Mandeep hasn't been lured by distractions off the field.

Instead, he has eyes set on repeating the performances from his last two outings - an excellent stand against Warriors followed by a cameo at the top before being run out while chasing a small target against Delhi Daredevils - when the Kings XI face defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens on Friday.

While most from his generation - he is 21 - have found difficult to deal with the fame and fortune that follows success in the IPL, how does he manage to keep his feet on the ground? "It's not really difficult," Mandeep told ESPNcricinfo. "Besides my family and friends, I would give a lot of credit to Gilly (Adam Gilchrist, the Kings XI captain). He keeps on saying situations may differ, but your attitude should be the same. That is what I have listened to him saying and seen him doing over the last two seasons. And I feel it's important for me to keep reminding it to myself."

Mandeep emerged as the surprise package of 2012. Not only was he Kings XI's leading run-getter, he also ended the season as the highest run-getter among those in the league that year who hadn't played international cricket

He followed that up by scoring 193 for India A in New Zealand and then led Punjab for most of their Ranji Trophy campaign in Harbhajan Singh's absence.

Even before he was 21, he notched up his maiden double-century in first-class cricket and led Punjab's charge in the Ranji Trophy's league stage. The Punjab manager and coach Arun Sharma said Mandeep is a responsible individual, both on and off the field, and that he kept encouraging his team-mates even when Punjab were struggling in the initial phase of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the domestic T20 tournament. They eventually reached the final.

Still, Mandeep felt that except for his double-century, against Mumbai at Wankhede Stadium, and a 96 against Jharkhand in the Ranji quarter-final, he didn't fulfil his potential.

"I would say it wasn't a great season for me as a batsman, but an average season. In that regard, it's imperative for me to be consistent in the IPL."

Mandeep has no confusion about his role with his franchise. With Gilchrist having failed to make any significant contribution with the bat in their seven games so far, Mandeep has emerged as the main opener. "Last year, I used to be happy to have given the team a good start by making use of the first six overs. That was my role. But now I consider myself as one of the main batsmen in the side and that's why I have to consistently keep on getting good starts and then converting it into a match-winning innings."

If he can translate his words into action, Kings XI may emerge as one of the surprise title contenders as the tournament heads towards the play-offs.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo