Every young and aspiring cricket player dreams of representing their country on the international stage, but for some, that dream remains tantalizingly out of reach. The story of singer-actor Harrdy Sandhu, who came close to donning the Indian jersey in the 2006 ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup, is one such tale often overlooked.

Harrdy Sandhu, renowned for his popular songs and acting talents, once had a promising future in cricket. He was a fast bowler who had played age-group cricket for Punjab and represented India Under-19 in 2005. His dream of wearing the Indian colors in the U-19 World Cup was on the verge of realization.

Recently, Harrdy Sandhu discussed the reasons behind his decision to skip the event in an intriguing podcast episode titled “Figuring Out With Raj Shamani.” One of the primary reasons he wasn’t selected for the tournament was the influence of former India fast bowler Venkatesh Prasad, who was the head coach of the team at that time. While there were rumors of a potential misunderstanding between Sandhu and Prasad, Sandhu was eager to provide some clarity on the matter.

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A significant twist in Sandhu’s story came with the revelation of a concealed injury. It was disclosed that during an age-group Punjab vs. Tamil Nadu match in Chennai, Sandhu had suffered a stress-related back injury. What makes this revelation startling is the fact that Sandhu hadn’t informed the Indian U-19 team management about his condition before playing his team’s solitary game.

Sandhu’s sole appearance for the Indian U-19 squad occurred in Bengaluru during a three-day match against England U-19. Unfortunately, his performance against players like Ambati Rayudu, Robin Uthappa, Shikhar Dhawan, and Manoj Tiwary was limited due to his injury. As his injury worsened, Sandhu had no choice but to exit the game.

Recovering from his back ailment took approximately a year. In December, he made a comeback by playing three Ranji Trophy matches for Punjab. However, his journey encountered another obstacle when he fell ill with chickenpox after his third and final game as a representative cricketer against Baroda. This setback prompted Sandhu to swiftly regain his health in order to attend a U-19 training camp in Pune.

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Reflecting on the past, Sandhu believed that he had performed admirably at the U-19 World Cup preparation camp. In the first game, he bowled 10 overs, with impressive figures of 3-4 maidens, 33-35 runs, and claimed five crucial wickets, including those of Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Ravindra Jadeja. Yet, despite his stellar stats, his name mysteriously did not appear in the final squad.

Adding to the confusion, Sandhu did not bowl in the third game and was rested for the second match, further shrouding the situation in uncertainty. Even among the reserves, his name remained conspicuously absent. The mystery deepened when it appeared that the selectors had chosen an off-spinner over Sandhu.

Sandhu shared an incident that might have played a role in his omission. Using the nickname “Venky,” he called out to his teammate Rahul Sharma during a match. However, the coach, Venkatesh Prasad, responded, potentially leading to a misunderstanding. Sandhu speculated that this event could have been linked to his exclusion from the team.

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He explained, “I was among the top 2-3 performers in bowling [U-19] that year. Venkatesh Prasad was the coach of the Indian team. The selectors were Pravin Amre, Dilip Vengsarkar, and one more person. They had selected 30 players with the intention of finalizing the squad from the top performers across three matches during the camp. I played the first match, bowled 10 overs, 3-4 maidens, 33-35 runs, [and took] five wickets. I got Rohit Sharma out. I got Cheteshwar Pujara out. I got Ravindra Jadeja out. And then Pinal Shah and Yo Mahesh. We were batting on the third day. It was my turn to bat, and I had asked Rahul Sharma [former India and Punjab spinner] for a bat. Rahul’s nickname was Venky. And Venkatesh Prasad was our coach. He was sitting in front. I shouted ‘Venky’ [to Rahul]. I had called Rahul, but [a shocked] Venkatesh Prasad was looking at me. [Maybe] I think he took offense and zeroed in on the same squad [which had played the last two U-19 tournaments].”