Chennai: During his playing days in the 90s, Shakti Singh made many a batsman dance to his tunes with his nippy fast bowling. Since his retirement in 2003, the former Himachal Pradesh first-class cricketer is making Bollywood stars shake a leg for his mellifluous voice. The 45-year-old Shakti, who was in Chennai as match referee for the Tamil NaduSaurashtra Ranji tie, has sung for famous music composers such as Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Pritam Chakraborty .
Shakti learned classical music in his younger days before an accidental entry into the cricket field. His feat of hitting 14 sixes against Haryana in a Ranji Trophy match in 1990 is still an Indian record and he was the first bowler from Himachal to take 200 first-class wickets.
“It’s not so difficult to juggle my two careers as I get a lot of free time to sing after officiating in a match,” said Shakti, who fined S.
Badrinath and M. Vijay 10 per cent of their match fee for showing dissent at umpires’ decision on the opening day.
Chennai is close to Shakti’s heart as he polished his bowling skills at MRF Pace Foundation here.
He also played TNCA first division cricket for Indian Overseas Bank and MRF.
“Kris Srikkanth and V.B.Chandrasekar used to pester me to sing S.P. Balasubramaniam’s famous song Mannil intha kadhal endri. The song is known for its breathless portion and they would tell me that my rendering was as good as the original.
Those days, I was a big fan of Ilayaraja. Now, I admire A.R. Rahman,” recalled Shakti whose dream is to work with the Oscar award winner.
While his brutal knock of 123 with 14 sixes helped Sakthi emerge out of obscurity, it also ended a career of Haryana off-spinner Vinay Dutt. “He bowled just one over and I hit him for four sixes. Three of them were out of the ground. His career was over after the match,” he added.
Shakti was a proven performer in domestic matches, but he never made it to the next stage. “I was always in the reckoning. I performed well in Irani, Challenger and Duleep, but never got picked for India, not even for U-25 tours.
Those days, even getting into the North Zone team was tough because we had the likes of Chetan Sharma, Kapil Dev, Manoj Prabhakar, Atul Vasan and Vivek Razdan. The lack of motivation, after being ignored by selectors, was one of the reasons I called it a day in 2003,” said Shakti.
When he was playing for IOB between 1990 and 1993, former off-spinner S.Venkataraghavan, then BCCI selector, told Sakthi to get an NOC from Himachal to play for TN. “The TNCA first division has been the best league in the country for its format and the way it is organised. When I took more than 30 wickets each in the first two seasons, Venkataraghavan wanted me to represent TN,” he informed.
Though he never sported India colours, the team did utilise Shakti’s talent during the 1991 tour to Australia. His bowling helped the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Navjot
Singh Sidhu to prepare for the Perth Test in which the little master scored one of the memorable centuries of his career.“I was sent to Australia by MRF to train under Dennis Lillee. After I played practice matches at WACA, the Indian team wanted me to bowl for them in the nets. Even the practice strips were so lively.
The ball was seaming and bouncing, but Sachin whacked all the net bowlers even as others struggled. I was also fortunate to see him play that superb knock. Aussie pacer Merv Hughes was on fire and Ian Healy had to fly to stop some of those balls,” reminisced Shakti, whose son Lakshya picked two wickets on his U-16 debut for Himachal on Sunday.