Warwickshire’s spin-bowling department boasts another serious option following the striking emergence of slow left-armer Sunny Singh.
The potential of the 20-year-old, in the Edgbaston system since he was 15, has long been clear but he has made significant strides during the last year and this winter in particular.
That is great tribute to not just the cricket skills of the India-born player, but also the strength of character he required after arriving in England at the age of ten, unable to speak English and facing all the challenges that carving out such a new life entails.
Singh settled in Birmingham and then with the Bears and his cricket is now going from strength to strength. Already in 2017 his bowling has impressed in various conditions around the world; in Sri Lanka with Warwickshire’s academy, in the UAE with the first-team squad and then back in England where he recorded match-figures of 30-17-52-4 on his first-class debut against Oxford MCCU at The Parks.
I played a lot of football. But then Eaton Gordon from Warwickshire Cricket Board came down to our school, George Dixon Academy, and saw me play. He told me to come along to Edgbaston if I wanted to train with them and I did that. And after that it was just cricket, cricket, cricket.Sunny Singh
Now Singh just wants to work hard to establish himself alongside fellow spinners Jeetan Patel and Josh Poysden in the Bears’ first-team squad – and emulate the club’s sport director Ashley Giles in making a wise decision to ditch left-arm seam.
“I bowled seamers in my very first game for Handsworth at Under 13s level and got whacked everywhere, ” he said. “I thought ‘this is not me’ so just rolled my arm over and tried spin and the ball was turning. So I thought ‘yeah, that’s fine.’
“I was born in Punjab, two hours away from Mohali Stadium, and moved to England aged 10 but, to be honest, at first I didn’t really like cricket. I played a lot of football. But then Eaton Gordon from Warwickshire Cricket Board came down to our school, George Dixon Academy, and saw me play. He told me to come along to Edgbaston if I wanted to train with them and I did that. And after that it was just cricket, cricket, cricket.”
Singh played for Handsworth CC for two seasons before moving on to Aston Manor, then Water Orton and now Smethwick. That it was Gordon who spotted his potential offers a nice symmetry as Gordon, a highly-respected youth coach at Edgbaston for many years, also attended George Dixon Academy, opposite what is now the Edgbaston Foundation Sports Ground.
The route followed by Singh, like that of established all-rounder Ateeq Javid, from schools and clubs in Birmingham through the Bears’ age-groups and academy into the first-team squad, is one the club is keen to see many more local youngsters take.
“It has gone well for me and this year has been really good so far,” he said. In February I was struggling with my back a bit so I asked if I could go out to Sri Lanka with the academy and get some bowling there. I played three one-day matches, got a five-for and captained in one of them which I really enjoyed.
“Then I went to Dubai and was the first-choice spinner because Jeets and Josh were away. I did okay and took some wickets. It’s good for the club to have both me and Josh to support Jeets if need be. We have just got to keep taking wickets and be ready if the call comes.
“It was really good to get my first first-class wickets at Oxford. I was happy with the way I bowled and it was great to be part of the Warwickshire team with Belly and Trotty, two of the best international cricketers of the time. Belly kept coming to me with advice and Trotty was always talking to me and that just gave me more confidence.
“I have trained really hard in the winter and my consistency has got so much better. It’s coming out really well for me so I have just got to keep working hard and take any opportunities that come along.”
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