Mohinder Singh Brar remembers the night India lost the 2003 World Cup final to Australia. His son Harpreet stayed up all night, crying, refusing to eat. That was the night, Mohinder asserts, his son’s cricketing ambitions were born.

Go forward 18 years to Friday night. Harpreet, donning the colours of Punjab Kings, stepped up to bowl his third over. The left-arm spinner spotted his opponent, Virat Kohli no less, stepping out of the crease, but was ready with a short of a length skidder that evaded the slog and broke the stumps. The very next ball, he put sharp spin on the ball that beat Glenn Maxwell’s bat to clip the off-stump bail. He finished the over as a double-wicket maiden, but wasn’t done till he picked up AB de Villiers’ wicket. It was a spell – coupled with a breezy 25 with the bat – that earned Kings the win, and a pat on the back from Kohli.

It was the night Mohinder knew his son had arrived.

“When the world’s best batsman pats your son’s back, there can be nothing bigger than that moment,” he says.

The 25-year-old’s journey started when his mother stumbled upon a poster in a Zirakpur market that advertised cricket coaching at an academy. The facility closed a few years later, but the Moga-native continued his growth in Chandigarh under former Punjab left-arm spinner Bharti Vij. The travel though was problematic.

“Sometimes he would miss a bus because the drivers would not let him travel with his big kitbag,” recalls his mother Gurmeet Kaur. “It meant we had to start at 4 AM from home and return late at night.”

The struggle continued though, as Harpreet was overlooked by the Mohali district junior teams. Vij instead enrolled him into a Ropar district team – a minor district of the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA). He was getting to play, but his performances, no matter how good, were going unnoticed.

It wasn’t until current Kolkata Knight Riders batsman Gurkeerat Mann spotted him and brought him to Mohali for a trial. But it came at a time when the youngster was all set to quit the sport and move to Canada.

“He was disappointed about not getting chances to play in Mohali. Luckily his persistence paid off,” says Mohinder, who retired as head constable, working as a driver, with the Punjab Police last year.

He had to slog through four trials before the erstwhile Kings XI Punjab picked him up in 2018. But it wasn’t until the following season that he managed to secure a start in the team – he played twice that year, and once in 2020. Domestically though, his run was much more successful – including a finish as the third highest wicket-taker with 56 wickets at the CK Nayudu Trophy in 2018-19, and a debut in the U-23 national team in 2019.

His star was yet to shine in the IPL. Till Friday, that is.

“I have played under the pressure of not getting to play,” he said after the match. “But this time, my focus was to play freely and to perform with whatever I have. To get my first wicket in the form of Virat paji is the biggest joy.”

Harpreet had arrived.