IPL 2022: Ranji Trophy superstar Rinku Singh arrives for Kolkata Knight Riders – Firstcricket News, Firstpost

Kolkata Knight Riders needed 61 from 43 balls against Rajasthan Royals when Shreyas Iyer fell. Nitish Rana looked settled at one end, but Kolkata needed someone reliable at the other. Andre Russell was there, but with the asking rate hovering around a manageable 8.51, Kolkata could afford to hold back Russell for the final stages. They needed a buffer before that final onslaught.

They promoted Rinku Singh. It was a curious move, for his reputation lies in First-class cricket, not the IPL. Until the previous season, Rinku Singh had batted eight times in 10 IPL matches – all for Kolkata – and had scored 77 runs. He had never crossed 30, and his strike rate read 101. Since 2020, he had played only once. There had been nothing remarkable in his IPL career.

Rinku Singh scored an unbeaten 42 runs against Rajasthan Royals in Kolkata Knight Riders’s win. Image: Sportzpics

However, Rinku Singh holds one credential unlike most of his colleagues. His appetite for runs in the longest format is insatiable. Not only is his average of 64.08 is the tenth-best in the history of First-class cricket, but he also strikes at 70. And in all T20 cricket, he strikes at 138 – not outstanding but decent.

This season, he was picked for the first time against Gujarat Titans, who boast of one of the strongest bowling attacks of the season. Kolkata had to chase only 157, but Mohammed Shami and Lockie Ferguson quickly reduced them to 16/3. As Venkatesh Iyer, a bona-fide opener, and Andre Russell waited in the dugout, Rinku Singh, his technique honed in Ranji Trophy, walked out to take on some of the best fast bowlers.

He leg-glanced Alzarri Joseph for six, watched Shreyas Iyer get out, and launched a counterattack. Ferguson kept clocking 145 kmph, but Rinku Singh kept stepping out, hitting two gorgeous drives for fours – through long on and extra cover. He scored a 28-ball 35 that night – his highest IPL score at that point.

Kolkata held him back against Delhi Capitals as Kuldeep Singh wreaked havoc. He eventually emerged at 83/6, after Kuldeep took out Shreyas and Russell in the space of four balls. This time he made 23 in 16 balls, helping Nitish Rana take Kolkata to 146/9.

Two matches, 51 runs. The two cameos were certainly an improvement on his previous seasons. However, the one defining innings that marks the advent of superstars in the IPL – or, indeed, in any format or tournament – was yet to come.

On Monday night, Rinku Singh impressed during the Rajasthan innings, catching Karun Nair and Sanju Samson brilliantly at deep mid wicket, and being outstanding in the field. Shreyas later explained that he had identified Rinku Singh as one of the finest fielders in the side, and had placed him accordingly.

But even after that, he needed to establish his credentials with bat. When Rinku Singh stepped out to bat, coach Brendon McCullum advised him to stay until the end. And as he passed Shreyas, on his way out, and reached the crease, Rana echoed McCullum’s thoughts.

He was fortunate to begin with, bottom-edging the first ball he faced, from Trent Boult, for four. The asking rate, 8.14, was under control, so Rana and Rinku Singh were content to take five off Yuzvendra Chahal’s over and six off R. Ashwin’s.

Then came the outstanding shot of the night, off Kuldeep Sen, the young fast bowler who had gone from strength to strength this season. Sen marginally strayed in line, but that was all Rinku Singh needed to loft it over deep fine leg, into the stands.

That broke the shackles. When Prasidh Krishna bounced, Rinku Singh hooked for four. And when Chahal – current owner of the Purple Cap – returned, Rinku Singh was ready. The first four, a cover drive off the back foot, was conventional. The second, stepping out, then reaching as far as possible to avoid a stumping, and still somehow managing to connect and beat long on, was far from it.

The target, 23 in 16 balls, was now under control. It took them only 11 balls to finish it. Rinku Singh ended on his IPL best of a 23-ball 42, his runs coming off a stand of 66. Despite scoring fewer than Rana, he was the obvious choice for the Player of the Match.

It has been a long journey for Rinku Singh, who had, at one point, battled adversities. When his family was in financial trouble, a teenage Rinku Singh had to save from his allowances while playing for Uttar Pradesh Under-19s, and had almost taken to sweeping and mopping to earn extra money.

It has been a steep climb from there, but he does not forget his roots. At the podium on Monday night, he took particular pride in announcing to the world that he had been the first IPL cricketer from Aligarh. The journey is going to be steeper, but things are indeed looking up.

Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketNews and co-author of Sachin and Azhar at Cape Town.

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