T20 World Cup 2024: Harmeet Singh living the American dream

After featuring for India, country of his birth, in two age-group World Cups, Harmeet left for the land of opportunities. Few years later, he's hours away from a debut in a global ICC event.
USA all-rounder Harmeet Singh with his family
USA all-rounder Harmeet Singh with his family | Special Arrangement

CHENNAI: It's Tuesday morning in Dallas. The T20 World Cup warm-up match between the United States and Bangladesh had just been called off because of rain. Harmeet Singh — one of the stars for USA during the bilateral series win against the same opponents — had gotten back and was out with his family for breakfast.

Four years ago, when Harmeet moved to the US in pursuit of his dream of playing at the highest level, little did he imagine he would be making his T20 World Cup debut. It was a leap of faith against all odds. Harmeet, a Mumbai-born cricketer, had been playing first-class cricket as a professional for Tripura and he realised he could get stuck if he didn’t do something. So, when an offer came to play in Major League Cricket in the US, the left-arm spin-bowling all-rounder took it with both hands.

However, it was not easy. He flew in alone while his wife visited for a month before going back. She had her own job in India and was also pregnant. Harmeet had no choice but to pursue his dream while trying to make ends meet. He playing in Atlanta, and then moved to Seattle where he was playing as well as doing some coaching. It looked that things were starting to settle down. Harmeet was getting his visa sorted, while his wife had moved to Austin to her sister’s place.

However, things took a turn for the worse in the middle of 2021. Harmeet lost both his grandfather and mother in a matter of few months to the Covid pandemic. “I lost my mom, my grandfather in 2021 and I couldn't go back,” Harmeet recalls in a phone conversation with this daily. “In April 2021, I lost my mom. In May, I lost my grandfather. In June was when my daughter was born. So it was a very emotional ride for me personally.”

Once her daughter Heer Kaur was born, Harmeet’s life changed dramatically. His priorities became different and he did not have the option of giving up. “When you see a child in front of you, there's a lot of reality with you. And you know that you're really accountable for. I really changed as a person. I knew what I had to do. I was playing on the weekend, working out in the morning, practicing in the afternoon, coaching in the evenings. So those were very hectic days. But, all in all, now when I look back, that also made me realise that hard work and not giving up attitude can really help overcome anything,” Harmeet says.

As the conversation treads back to his family, his toddler son Kabir Singh starts crying and Harmeet pauses and tends to him before getting back. “Family is the most important pillar in your life. When the going is tough, you always realise that family is the one who's always by your side. Family is the most important thing and I will do whatever it takes to keep the family peace intact,” says Harmeet.

While Harmeet was playing for various leagues, including Thunderbolts in Minor League Cricket, MLC got a boost with Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises getting involved. Harmeet, however, was signed by Seattle Orcas, who reached the final before losing to MI New York in 2023. Later that year, Harmeet eventually qualified to play for the United States. However, it did not happen until April 2024 when he took the field against Canada. Since then, there has been no looking back as USA beat Canada and Bangladesh in the lead up to the T20 World Cup.

For Harmeet — who played two U19 World Cups for India — there are no regrets. Growing up, he dreamt of playing for India but life has brought him to a place where he will be playing against the same country in the T20 World Cup.

While he acknowledges that he owes it to the USA, the land where his dreams came true, Harmeet wants to just focus on his game. “For me, it's like ‘if it's there, it's very good and then if it's not there, I can look for the opportunities’. Growing up, my eventual dream was to play for India right now. I was always aspiring to play the highest level. It didn’t happen in India. Since I've been able to accomplish that dream for the USA, we try to live it to the maximum and give my best.”

For his father Jasbir Singh, who is at home in Mumbai receiving treatment for a medical condition, it will mean a little bit more. “It’s not a great state for him but then he watches all my games despite the time difference and all. Maybe if we get the time for highlights, he will watch highlights but he'll watch it. My wife sends him all the videos and all the other things that he misses,” says Harmeet.

When he takes the field to face Canada in a few hours' time at the Grand Prairie Stadium in the opening game, he will have his wife, daughter and son to cheer from the stands. And so will his father back in Mumbai, watching him on TV.

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The New Indian Express