Bengal v Railways, Ranji Trophy quarter-final, Kolkata, 5th day January 12, 2014

'I never used to take cricket seriously'- Anureet

From not taking cricket seriously and facing fitness issues, to emerging as Railways' leading wicket-taker and a key figure behind the team's journey to the quarter-finals this season, Anureet Singh has come a long way

Railways' Ranji Trophy campaign ended with a 48-run loss to Bengal at Eden Gardens on Sunday, but it was still one of their best seasons in recent times. Central to this success were batsmen Mahesh Rawat and Arindam Ghosh and the young fast bowler Anureet Singh.

Anureet, 25, had a breakout season, bagging 44 wickets in eight matches at an average of 17.56 and a strike rate of 47.4. At the end of the quarter-final round, Anureet is the second highest wicket-taker in the tournament, behind Himachal's Rishi Dhawan.

For the Railways bowler, this success is the culmination of years of hard work and guidance received from the Railways coach, Abhay Sharma, who helped Anureet with various aspects of his bowling.

"When I started out in first-class cricket, I was worked on by the coach," Anureet told ESPNcricinfo. "My action was a concern, so that was worked out. I was also underweight, and so I was given a proper diet. The coach and I have been working on this for almost five years and I am seeing the benefits now."

Anureet made his debut for Railways against Karnataka in 2008, and took a six-for in the game that eventually ended in a draw. Prior to this season, the most number of overs Anureet had bowled in one Ranji Trophy edition were 210.2 in 2012-13, and the most number of wickets he had taken were 21.

This season, he has bowled 348.1 overs, second only to Mumbai's left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar. More importantly, he has been the strike bowler for Railways, which has often meant long spells. At Eden Gardens, during Bengal's second innings, for instance, Anureet bowled 13 overs unchanged from the High Court end until tea on the third day despite suffering a groin cramp earlier in the match.

According to Abhay, Anureet's improved fitness levels were a result of specific pre-season work. "Before this season, I paid special attention to his diet, liquid intake and momentum in the run-up," Abhay said. "We worked on his action a bit, and this was done to improve his technique, because a correct technique means fewer injuries."

"I also changed his fitness programme. Last season, he was a bit more muscular. You don't need big muscles to bowl fast and it can also sometimes affect your action. Fortunately, whatever changes I have suggested, Anureet has absorbed and implemented them. That's the biggest thing for a coach. The success he has enjoyed has given him more confidence."

That constant reinforcement was crucial to the development of the bowler who did not take up cricket seriously until the 10th standard.

"I started out as a fast bowler and never really took cricket seriously before that because my family wanted me to concentrate on studies," Anureet, who is from Delhi, said. "My father is a retired professional from the Railways and it was initially difficult trying to convince them to support me, but once he saw how hard I was working, he backed me completely."

He also got the backing of Abhay early on, who spotted his talent when the fast bowler was playing at the age-group levels. Abhay helped him get a job in the Railways, paving the way for the bowler to play in the premier domestic competition. "Anureet's posting is in Mumbai so sometimes, the only way I get to work on him is when he comes to Delhi," Abhay said.

Since then, the pair have worked on keeping things simple. Anureet describes himself as primarily an inswing bowler. "I am most confident when bowling inswing," the bowler said. "In terms of targeting the other areas, I prepare according to the plans and I have worked on bowling to certain lengths."

His ambitions of playing for the national team too are firmly in place. "Every cricketer who plays cricket at this level wants to play for India," Anureet said. "I am also trying my best, I am working harder, and I am trying to improve."

Anureet's performance in the second innings had prompted Abhay to say the bowler was ready for the international level, and he reiterated that opinion on Sunday. "At times during this season, he touched 140kph. He was not so fast last season, but he has been able to build up his pace well. He has shaped up really well, and he is ready."

On Saturday, after claiming his fifth five-for of the season, Anureet bent down and kissed the turf. It's a ritual the bowler says he does every time he gets five wickets, as a means of respecting the pitch and thanking the Almighty. Railways may have been eliminated, but the bowler has plenty to be grateful for this season.

Rachna Shetty is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • GNANESHWAR on January 16, 2014, 14:06 GMT

    Anureet singh is a great swing bowler.he has always provided early breakthroughs for railways.i would be happy if he gets a chance to play for rajasthan royals in ipl which is my favourite team.hopes he plays for india in future.

  • Naresh on January 13, 2014, 12:12 GMT

    We have seen two pictures of late:- Pankaj Singh and now Anureet Singh. both look very athletic built, strong bowlers. We have seen how well Ishwar Pandey has done on a recent A-Team trip to SA. Pandey is now been selected for the senior team. Lets give these other two guys a go at a A-Team trip and see how they do.

  • raj on January 13, 2014, 8:39 GMT

    "Touched 140kmph at times" - In other words, he is another 130km bowler!! Need some EXPRESS PACE bowlers in the domestic circuits. Yadav and Aaron are the only two bowlers with decent pace in India - two is not enough, we require more. Batsman will also improve when exposed to hostile pace on bouncy pitches. Then and ONLY THEN will India be a force to be reckoned with in overseas conditions.

  • Al on January 12, 2014, 16:06 GMT

    This kid looks promising. Our Selectors should draft Anureet and Rishi Dhawan in India A team. They should be looking for talent in Ranji Trophy, not IPL. Even club level bowlers like Vinay Kumar, Unadkat and Mohit Sharma can do well in IPL.

  • Sony on January 12, 2014, 15:38 GMT

    Can someone post his average speed and height?

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