All for Sukhwinder Tinku after dreaming of Brian Lara

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PART 6: Sukhwinder Singh Tinku still remembers his passage to West Indies captain during the inaugural Junior World Cup in the Australian town of Merbein in 1988. Tinku, a right-arm pacer, says he hit it on the pads for three consecutive deliveries before finding the outside. edge, only for the latch to fall off. Although Tinku’s seven wickets in the tournament included England Captain Mike Atherton, his favorite memory is still that.

“His bat swing was very fast,” recalls Tinku. “I threw to the outswingers and even though the ball hit their pads, I was afraid if I connected it would land in the stands. He passed the fourth ball, an inswinger, to slips, but the catch was dropped. It was only after 2 or 3 years, when I saw him playing for the senior West Indies team, that I knew he was Brian Lara.

Tinku, the son of a contractor, played only one Ranji Trophy match for Punjab. But he played all seven of India’s matches at the World Cup and shared the new ball with Subroto Banerjee.

“Going to Australia was like a fairy tale for all of us. Once, some players, including Aaqib Javed, pretended to be Punjabi-speaking Delhi boys and told me that they had met me before in Delhi. Later, some of my teammates told me that they were actually from Pakistan.

After the World Cup, Tinku was among the 12 pacers chosen to train at the MRF Pace Foundation. Later, he was chosen, along with Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad, to train for six months in Australia with Dennis Lillee. “We were all watching Lillee, sir, and discussing his action,” he recalls.

He was then picked for India A, but days before he could play, he dislocated his left knee joint while training. He put him out of cricket for more than two years.

“Many doctors told me that I would never be able to play cricket. Spending two years at home was the hardest stage of my life but I came back. I was the biggest wicket-taker in the Punjab inter-district tournament, but then again, one day before a Ranji match, I re-injured my knee and that was the end of my professional career.”

Tinku played for the Punjab electrical department (joined as a foreman in 1995) before becoming a coach. Over the past two decades, Tinku has coached the likes of Shubman Gill, Manpreet Gony, Gurkeerat Mann, Sunny Sohal, who played for the USA, and Simi Singh, who plays for Ireland.

“If he had played for India, he would have been just an international cricketer. But this coaching role has enabled me to bring many international and national level cricketers to the game. When a player tells me about his selection in any district or state or national team, it is my greatest reward. Cricket taught me to never give up.

“Nowadays junior cricketers get a lot of exposure and they also get platforms like the IPL and the U-19 World Cup. My advice to them is to keep dreaming and aiming big. Hard work is the only key.”

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