After a long gap of 30 years, Punjab managed to lift a domestic trophy in 2023, beating Baroda to win the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy in Mohali in November 2023. But the state has yet to taste success in red-ball cricket since its last win in the 1992–93 season.

“I don’t think there is a mental block,” said Siddarth Kaul, an India and Punjab cricketer, when asked about Punjab’s better performances in white-ball when compared to red-ball cricket. “It’s more about the ability to change your game according to the format,” he said during the discussion on ‘Beyond the Boundary: Punjab Cricket’s Tomorrow’ as part of Sportstar’s ‘Focus Punjab’ Sports Conclave in Chandigarh on Wednesday.

Adapting quickly

“The teams that can adapt quickly from the T20 format to the ODI and longer format tend to progress much better. Winning a trophy in white ball but missing out on red ball doesn’t mean the players are not good. There have been many players from Punjab who have represented India in Test cricket,” he added.

Gursharan Singh, the captain of the Punjab team that won the Ranji Trophy title in the 1992–93 season, highlighted the well-established cricket ecosystem in Punjab during the late 1980s and early 1990s, contributing to the team’s success.

“For the last 30–40 years, Punjab’s [cricket] system, like the district and inter-district matches, has given exceptional results,” he said.

Promoting the sport

“For a hockey-playing state… winning the Ranji Trophy, a lot of credit must go to the players and the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA), as well as Bishan Paaji [Late Bishan Singh Bedi], our coach,” he added.

“For a cricketer to play all three formats, you need a lot of fitness, and you have to fine-tune your mind at the right time,” reckoned Bhupinder Singh, a former Punjab cricketer. “The younger generation is more lured to T20 cricket because of the big bucks there. Four-day cricket is not entirely fading away but [is] having a backseat at the moment. We, as administrators of the game, have to do a lot to save it,” he explained.

Although facing limitations in the four-day format, Punjab has consistently nurtured talented players who later went on to represent the country – Shubman Gill being the latest example.

“Many Punjab players have represented the country in the U-19 World Cups. These players then proceed to play in the Ranji Trophy and represent the country as well. We are very hopeful that the kids that do well go on to play for the country and become greats of the game,” Gursharan Singh said.

“Winning the T20 competition this time was a great achievement. I am hopeful that we will go on to win the Ranji Trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy in the future as well,” he added.

Fair play

Amarjeet Singh Mehta, President of the PCA, said, ”The main reason for Punjab winning a domestic tournament after 30 years is because of the fairness the organisation brought to the team and the sport.”

“The talent is also being scouted from all the districts around the state, not just the main cities. Uday Saharan, from a minor district in Bathinda, went on to captain the Indian team in the U-19 Asia Cup and the World Cup,” he said, speaking about the association’s vision to spread the game to all the districts.

“When I joined the PCA, the first question from the press, which was being asked for many years prior, was, ‘When will the new stadium be completed?’. The next question was, “When will Punjab’s next trophy come?’ 

“We decided that a deadline must be fixed regarding the stadium. We finalised that the stadium must be completed before the next IPL starts. The new stadium has modern technological equipment. It is a matter of great pride for all the office-bearers of the PCA that Punjab’s first game in the IPL, on March 23, will be held in the new Mullanpur stadium. There are seven main pitches, a B stadium pitch, and several practice pitches in the new stadium. The vision is that we are preparing three new pitches for every district. The young players must not feel that they will have to prepare differently and worry about how they perform on these pitches,” Amarjeet Singh added.

The conclave was held in association with Hero Motocorp, Indian Oil, Punjab Government, Great Sports Tech, KPMG, and NewsX.


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