A CONVERSATION WITH KENT CCC's JAS SINGH
Updated: Jan 21, 2022
When Jas Singh received the call up for his Championship debut, against Sussex back in July, it was the last thing on his mind. “At the start of the year, you have chats with coaches and academy directors. I pretty much got told ‘you might not play that much because you’re not fit enough.’ I never expected it.” It was all a little out of the blue, especially as the chance only arose due to of a positive COVID-19 case, which forced the Kent first XI into isolation. Jas was one of four debutants selected and he took the opportunity with both hands, taking figures of 4-51 in the first innings.
The son of a former Ranji Trophy player in Punjab, India, Jas mentions his father as a major influence in taking up cricket. “He moved to England to play cricket, but that didn’t work out. He ended up getting a shop, in Elephant & Castle. At the age of 7, I started playing just out of my dad giving me a bat and a ball. I think my dad probably saw something in me. A bit of himself maybe?”
Running a shop and attending to a child’s extracurricular sporting hobbies can’t be the easiest thing in the world. Jas testifies to that, but also to the support he received from his parents. “It was quite hard, definitely. My mum doesn’t drive either. So, it was even harder. My dad would always take me to training, matches and stuff like that. My mum would stay at the shop, stay till late, then we’d go pick her up.”
At an early age, Jas started out at Bexley Cricket Club. Currently the Kent Premier League champions, notable players to have come through the club are the likes of former England test batsman Robert Key and former England spinner, and current Kent CCC Academy Director, Min Patel. Incidentally, it was Min Patel who brought about an air of realism for Jas, when it came to diet and training. “He’s quite a straightforward guy. He tells you how it is.” Diet is often a topic raised when addressing issues with unconscious bias towards players from a South Asian background, however Jas is quite honest about his own challenges with fitness. “It has come up. In the past year, or two, I’ve been told many times I’m not fit enough. Last year, fitness tests weren’t my thing. I’m still not great. But still a work in progress. I’ve changed a few of my habits. I’ve gotten into the gym with the Strength and Conditioning coach at Kent. Maybe once a week, twice a week. Did running sessions. My bowling improved with that.”
Fitness aside, at 19, Jas is slowly coming into his own and realising what’s needed to progress to the next level. “There’s a few things to sort out" he says, referring to his bowling technique. You never stop learning.” And he hasn’t been bowling for all too long, either. “When I was younger, I didn’t really bowl that much. It was at the age of 15, 16 maybe, I properly started bowling. At 17, I broke my wrist, so I was out for a year. I came back and everything just changed.”
The work over the years has paid off. Albeit unexpected, the call came and Jas answered. “On a Saturday night, where one of the players had tested positive after a T20, I got a call from the second team coach saying ‘you’re gonna play championship tomorrow, are you available for the week?’ I was like ‘yeah, definitely available’. It was around 10pm, and the next morning I had to travel down to Canterbury at 7am or 8am.”
The rest is history. Debut figures of 4-51 are something to be savoured. “No one can take those wickets away.” Jas went on to play another championship game vs Derbyshire. “In that game I felt a bit more confident.” I ask a little more about this confidence. “I think the confidence came from playing that first game, against Sussex. And then in the academy in the under 18s they made me the captain of the team. That probably brought a bit of confidence in me, to take a leadership skill. Playing second team, sometimes being a senior bowler in that team, a bit of confidence comes from that. When you go into the first team you feel like you fit in”
Jas is surrounded by a great group of players. The likes of Sam Billings, Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Matt Milnes and the great (some might even argue the greatest of all time) Darren Stevens, to name just a few. Some may find it all a bit daunting, especially after the sudden thrust into first team action. But Jas seems to take it all in his stride. “Everyone’s helpful as well, you can ask questions.”
Fresh off of signing his first full-time professional rookie contract, Jas Singh is most certainly one to watch for the 2022 season.
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