With the likes of Vijender Singh, Akhil Kumar and Jitender Singh hailing from its stables, it is little wonder that the city of Bhiwani in Haryana is known as the nursery of Indian boxing. Now, the city has taken its first steps to make its presence felt in arguably India’s most popular sport — cricket. However, even for Barinder Balbirsingh Sran, the 23-year old left-arm pace bowler, who has received his maiden call-up to India’s ODI squad for their tour of Australia this month, boxing was the first-love. It was the quest to gain fame with boxing gloves, not cricket balls, that brought him to Bhiwani in the first place. It wasn’t that cricket didn’t play an organic role in Sran’s life.

He would play tennisball cricket in his village of Panniwali Morika, near Sirsa in Haryana. It was a Kings XI Punjab advertisement calling budding cricketers for trials that prompted a trip to Mohali in 2009. The selection didn’t happen, but soon this farmer’s son began to make inroads in his new career path by winning the North India leg of the Gatorade Speedster contest. This caught the attention of the Punjab cricket officials, and Sran soon became a nets bowler for visiting teams and also during the IPL. He then went on to win the India-U19 leg of the Speedster contest.

This led to a training stint at the ICC Academy in Dubai. Sran made an impressive debut in first-class cricket with seven wickets for Punjab against Orisaa in 2011, but was soon laid low by a spate of injuries. Even though he had just one season of proper cricket behind him, stalwarts like Rahul Dravid were impressed with his accuracy and pace and picked him at the auction to be part of the Rajasthan Royals squad for IPL 2015, in an attempt to get him ready for the following season. The Royals have since been suspended for the next two editions of the IPL, and while there is a question mark over his IPL future, Sran has fond memories of being part of the squad. “It helped a lot to be part of Rajasthan Royals,” Sran told bcci.tv in an interview. “I hadn’t played any cricket at the higher level then, and speaking with the international cricketers in the team helped me a lot.

Players like Tim Southee and James Faulkner had constant conversations with me, guiding me, telling me how things work in terms of bowling and field placements. Rahul sir boosted my confidence and encouraged me all the time. All this mattered a lot to me.” In his comeback firstclass game for Punjab, in October last year, Sran took six wickets in 17 overs, forcing the Railways team to follow-on. Punjab won the match by an innings and 126 runs and Sran was the Man of the Match.

Barinder

So impressed was team-mate and India all rounder Yuvraj Singh with Sran’s performance that he tweeted: “Barinder Saran! Serious spell of fast bowling on a flat track ! A talented fast left armer to watch out for reminds me of a young @ImZaheer.” In the last domestic season, Sran picked up 18 wickets in seven Ranji matches and 14 wickets in 7 matches in the Vijay Hazare ODI tournament. Sran described his call-up to the national side as the biggest day in his career so far. “I used to hear a lot about MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and other players in my career and to share the dressing room with such players would be great for me,” he told the Indian Express newspaper. His idols are two of the best ever exponents of left-arm fast bowling: former India speedster Zaheer Khan and the legendary Wasim Akram. Ever since the retirement of Zaheer, India has been desperate for a left-arm fast bowler to fill the void. Though he’s still at a stage of his career where many feel he’s punching above his weight, for now, Sran will be hoping to perform on the biggest stage of his life.

FACT SHEET
AGE:
23

PLACE OF BIRTH:
SIRSA, HARYANA

TEAMS:
PUNJAB, RAJASTHAN

ROYALS BATTING STYLE:
LEFT-HAND BAT

BOWLING STYLE:
LEFT-ARM MEDIUM

FIRST CLASS DEBUT:
PUNJAB V/S ORISSA
(NOVEMBER 2011)

FIRST-CLASS MATCHES: 11

FIRST-CLASS BATTING AVERAGE:
19.37

FIRST-CLASS BOWLING AVERAGE:
34.06

FIRST-CLASS WICKETS:
32

TWENTY20 DEBUT:
PUNJAB V/S DELHI
(OCTOBER 2011)

TWENTY20 MATCHES:
10

TWENTY20 BATTING AVERAGE:
17.00

TWENTY20 BOWLING
AVERAGE:161:32PM