New Delhi: On Sunday at the PCA Stadium in Mohali, the 21-year-old Jiwanjot Singh became only the fifth Indian batsman – and 14th of all time – to score a double-century on debut. The right-hand opener marked his first innings for his home state of Punjab with a fine 213, inclusive of 33 boundaries, and with Karan Goel put on 288 for the opening wicket against Hyderabad.
The pair’s record was eight shy of the Punjab record, 301 by Vikram Rathour and Navjot Singh Sidhu. More importantly, it gave the home team the first-innings lead. Jiwanjot’s innings was impressive for the way he played with a straight bat and how he put a value on his wicket. If all goes well for Punjab on Monday, Jiwanjot will be able to celebrate his 22nd birthday by having contributed heavily to his team’s victory.
The youngster, who forced his way into the Punjab Ranji Trophy team on the back of a mountain of runs at the Under-22 level, spoke to Cricketnext on the eve of his 22nd birthday.
The Punjab opener, who hit a double-century on first-class debut, speaks about his marathon innings and his style of batting.
Tell us about your days in junior cricket. Who is your coach and how did you break into Punjab's first-class team?
I started playing cricket when I was 11 and was soon selected in Punjab's U-15 team. My coach is Maheshinder Singh who has been instrumental in guiding me and polishing my skills. This year I scored a lot of runs in U-22 cricket and blasted three centuries, including one double-hundred, and my endeavour was duly rewarded when I was selected to represent Pujab in the Ranji Trophy.
Who did you talk to before your debut first-class match? Were you slightly nervous?
I talked to our Punjab coach Arun Sharma and Vikram Rathore before the match. I was tad uptight but they encouraged me and restored my confidence. Our captain Bhajji paaji (Harbhajan Singh) also spoke to me individually and told me to play my natural game and keep things simple. Once the match started, I didn't feel like I was playing my debut first-class game. I am thankful to all of them for making me feel at home.
How is the feeling of scoring a double-hundred on a first-class debut? Which is the best compliment you've received as yet?
Of course I'm delighted but I don't think anything has changed drastically. Everyone came up to me and congratulated me for the innings. It was nice to hear words of appreciation from Bhajji paaji and VVS Laxman.
How did you go about compiling the marathon innings? Opening the innings while playing your debut first-class match must be difficult? Did you forge a strategy to counter Pragyan Ojha?
The beginning was a bit tough but everything changed after I scored my first 10 runs. Those 10 runs were most difficult to score but after that runs started to flow from my bat and my confidence burgeoned. Ojha is a world-class spinner and I was watchful during his first spell. I worked him out soon and then went for my shots. I'm an opening batsman since I started playing U-15 so I'm used to the pressure of opening the innings.
The impressive part of your innings was that you mostly played with straight bat in the 'V' area. Was it a conscious effort or is it your natural style?
I play with a straight bat especially during the initial phase of the innings. I worked hard on this aspect when I was learning the ropes from my coach but now this is ingrained so you can say that this has become my natural style. Once I'm set, I like to play an array of shots and don't mind going for lofted strokes and playing with horizontal bat.
Which shot do you think you play the best?
I think I play square cut very well. I play it instinctively and it comes naturally to me.
Who is your role-model in cricket?
I am a devotee of Sachin Tendulkar and he's my inspiration. Among openers, Gautam Gambhir is my favourite.
After a splendid start to your career, what is your next goal? How are you looking forward to the season?
Currently my focus is on winning this match against Hyderabad. This may sound like a cliché but I take one game at a time and channelize all my energies on it. As you said, this is just the beginning of my career so it is important that I don't get distracted by all the hype and fanfare.