At 32, he has spent nearly 10 years in domestic cricket. He got his first IPL contract over six years ago. Yet, it is only now that he’s being hailed as the big discovery of IPL 2024. Welcome to Shashank’s world! Shashank Singh made his debut in senior domestic limited-overs cricket during the 2014-15 season. He earned his first Ranji Trophy cap five years later. In this IPL, he has been one of the standout performers, consistently delivering impressive performances as a middle-order batter.

“It feels good when someone refers to me as a find. Ultimately, that’s because I have been able to back myself, showcase my potential, and deliver frequently this IPL season,” a relaxed Shashank tells The Hindu. “People like you follow domestic cricket so closely that you know that I have been around the circuit for a decade now. I am not sure how I have fared, but I have survived. I have always been confident about my abilities, and I am glad I have been able to execute them better.”

Shashank doesn’t shy away from hitting good balls out of the park, but one cannot ignore his tendency to downplay himself. The fact that it took him a lot of time to cement a place in a side — domestic or IPL — seems to have made him more practical in his approach.

Punjab Kings’ Shashank Singh plays a shot during the IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Punjab Kings.

Punjab Kings’ Shashank Singh plays a shot during the IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Punjab Kings.
| Photo Credit:
K.R. DEEPAK

Growing up in Bhilai and representing Madhya Pradesh in Under-15 and Under-17 cricket, Shashank, the son of a police officer and telecommunications officer, moved to Mumbai with his family to pursue his cricketing dreams.

Although he made it to the Mumbai Under-19 team, his senior debut was delayed. He finally made the cut as an all-rounder in 2014-15 season, but despite his effective medium-pace bowling, he struggled to secure a regular spot in the team.

In 2018-19, he tried his luck in Pondicherry but eventually returned to Chhattisgarh, which was a recognised member of the Board of Control for Cricket in India by now. During his first season with Chhattisgarh, Shashank played a crucial role in securing its first-ever victory over Mumbai in all formats at the senior level.

While competing in Mumbai’s maidans, Shashank had caught the eye of IPL scouts, earning stints with Delhi Daredevils (now Capitals) and Rajasthan Royals between 2017 and 2021. His IPL debut was with Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2022, but he was released and went unsold in the 2023 auction.

Fast forward to 2024, and Shashank’s fortunes have turned. His heroics for Punjab Kings, including a stunning unbeaten 68 off 28 balls, helped his team chase down the highest-ever IPL target of 262 with eight balls to spare. Shashank, unaffected by his past setbacks, embraces his success this time.

“This is a by-product of all the struggles I have had at various levels. I have learned from every failure and little success I have had over all these years.”

He chuckles at being called “old”, just as he does when dubbed “the find of the season”. Thanks to his morning yoga routine and countless hours on the cricket grounds across India, Shashank seems to be in his prime. His knack for breaking down challenging targets, like turning 127 off 54 balls into “six sixes and six fours,” shows his confidence.

Age doesn’t bother him; he’s focused on emulating his Mumbai teammates to reach his dream of playing for India.

“I have been playing with Pravin Tambe at D.Y. Patil (in Mumbai’s corporate leagues) and have seen him debut in the IPL and in Ranji in his 40s,” Shashank says. “And I have a friend in Surya (Suryakumar Yadav) with whom I have been playing for Parsee Gymkhana for the last 15 years.”

Shashank emphasises the Suryakumar example, noting how both he and Suryakumar excel at turning high-risk shots into calculated risks with precision, especially under pressure.

“The world sat up and took notice when Surya hit Jofra Archer for a six off his first ball in international cricket, but I had been watching him do the same for well over a decade, so I knew he would do it. Similarly, I know what I am capable of, and I support my abilities.”

Being the mature individual he is, on and off the field, Shashank doesn’t require pep talks from mentors. He gleans pointers from short conversations as adeptly as he reads a bowler’s wrist — it could be with former India cricketer Abey Kuruvilla or his head coach at one of his earlier teams, SRH’s Brian Lara.

“We miss him (Kuruvilla) at D.Y. Patil since he is with BCCI now, but he calls and shares his observations regularly,” said Shashank. “And he (Brian) texted me the other day to compliment me, and we had a short chat.”

Even Punjab Kings head coach Trevor Bayliss and director Sanjay Bangar are no exceptions. Just before the KKR game, Bangar and Shashank bumped into each other over breakfast. “All he told me was to be careful about a specific ball that Sunil Narine bowls, and I kept it in mind. Even Trevor — we had this meet and greet event with the fans, and someone was late by a couple of minutes — so in those two minutes, Trevor had a suggestion about a drive I played, and that’s about it,” Shashank says.

Throughout the conversation, there is a wide grin on Shashank’s face. Perhaps Jonny Bairstow should take credit for it. “I got a duck in our season opener (against Delhi Capitals on March 23), was sitting dejected in the dug-out, and suddenly Jonny tapped me from behind and said, ‘If I don’t see you smiling, I will stop speaking with you’. I have kept it in mind ever since.”

Jonny Bairstow and Shashank Singh celebrate after a boundary during the IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Punjab Kings.

Jonny Bairstow and Shashank Singh celebrate after a boundary during the IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Punjab Kings.
| Photo Credit:
K.R. DEEPAK

Despite his accomplishments, no conversation with Shashank is complete without mentioning the IPL Auction in Dubai on December 19. After the franchise raised the paddle for him, there was confusion as another player with the same name, a younger hard-hitting batter from Punjab, seemed to be preferred.

The franchise issued a clarification the next day, but Shashank wasn’t fazed. Bangar called him ‘around 6 a.m.’ and assured him of the franchise’s trust. “Hitesh Goswami sir, our Chhattisgarh head coach and talent scout for the franchise, indicated that Punjab Kings was interested in me,” he recalls. “It’s been reduced to nothing but a joke in our camp ever since.”

Shashank even appeared in a social media video for the franchise, humorously addressing the identity confusion with a famous dialogue from the Hindi film Andaz Apna Apna.

With his confidence being sky-high and form at its peak, call him old or call him a find. Shashank Singh, at 32, does not mind!


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