IPL 2023: Rinku Singh, a tale from rags to riches

The biggest success this season smashed Gujarat Titans' pacer Yash Dayal for five successive towering sixes in the final over of a 200-run plus chase


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Published: Sun 21 May 2023, 8:31 PM

Just like it has been for a lot of domestic players in the past, the Indian Premier League (IPL) provided a much-needed, well-deserved big break to Uttar Pradesh's domestic cricket star Rinku Singh.

Though everyone became aware of this pocket dynamite's capabilities as a batter and fielder during the last season with Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in 2022, Rinku was launched into cricketing stardom the moment he smashed Gujarat Titans' pacer Yash Dayal for five successive towering sixes in the final over of a 200-run plus chase in this year in IPL 2023.

Those five sixes became the reason for his coming to the limelight, he emerged as a strong player who has been battling poverty and a lack of support from his loved ones for playing the sport.

Even after getting into cricket, Rinku's calibre was not acknowledged initially. Despite his consistent efforts in domestic cricket for UP, he had to sit on the sidelines after being offered his first IPL contract in 2017 by Punjab Kings.

In 2018, KKR bought him but he got to play barely a handful of matches per season till 2020. Failures came in plenty as he could not register big scores.

His 2022 season showed some glimpses of brilliance that was to follow the next year. In seven matches, he scored 174 runs at an average of 34.80 and a strike rate of 148.72. His best score was 42 (not out).

Rinku showed some tiny glimpses of his 'Finisher' role during a 211-run chase against Lucknow Super Giants, in which he scored 40 off just 15 balls with two fours and four sixes. The big hits smashed by Rinku left fans astonished that how could a man of his size produce such power. Also, LSG team and fans had their hearts in their mouths seeing the young man blaze his way through the bowling attack. But he was caught by Evin Lewis, who took a blinder to deny KKR a win, leaving them short of two runs.

Following the match, Rinku received immense backing from then-head coach Brendon McCullum, the man who kickstarted IPL with 158* in 73 balls for KKR against Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2008 and had been a trendsetter in T20 cricket's early years.

"Rinku's is an incredible story. He has been around for five years in IPL, sat on the sidelines for so long and worked so hard, he has had to wait for his opportunity, he got it late in the tournament and he has taken it. He plays the game for all the right reasons that I love as a coach and as a fan of cricket as well. Rinku is a player who KKR will invest in, no doubt, over the next few years and we will see him progressing and challenging for the top honours. Not too many people can bat like Rinku did and be able to pull games out of the fire. He has almost done for us on two occasions. I am really pleased for him," said McCullum during a post-match conference after the match.

The 2023 season proved to be the game-changing season for Rinku where he proved his strength reflecting that Indian cricket was in strong and capable hands.

He had healthy domestic cricket stats to his name. In 40 first-class matches, he scored 2,875 runs at an average of 59.89 with seven centuries and 19 fifties in 59 innings, with the best score of 163*. His form was also great in List A cricket, having scored 1,749 runs in 50 matches at an average of 53, with one century and 16 fifties in 46 innings and the best score of 104.

The first match against Punjab Kings was a failure as he could score only four. In the next match against RCB, he battered a once-dominating bowling attack along with Shardul Thakur, smashing 46 off 33 balls.

In the next match against Gujarat Titans during a run-chase of 205, Rinku smashed those game-changing five sixes in the final over to Yash Dayal. Not only had Rinku hit those winning runs in the final over, but had also given a huge statement on his intent, calmness and self-belief. While these words have become tiresome to fans, often heard after post-match interviews, Rinku lived these words to the fullest and became the very epitome of them.

Rinku's continued with his consistency in later games, winning some of them with his bat.

At the end of the season, he stands tall after 14 matches, he scoring 474 runs at an average of 59.25 and a strike rate of 149.52. He scored four half-centuries in this IPL, with best score of 67*. He stands above stars like Jason Roy, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Venkatesh Iyer, Andre Russell and skipper Nitish Rana as the leading run-scorer for KKR this season.

During the run-chases, Rinku proved to be a different entity. In seven run-chases, he scored 305 runs at an average of 152.50 and a strike rate of 174.28. All of his four fifties came during these chases. He smashed 20 fours and 22 sixes in these run-chases.

Nitish Rana, Rinku's skipper and close friend, expressed happiness on Rinku's success numerous times throughout the tournament, even giving him his own match-bat which Rinku used during the heroic run-chase against GT.

"Feels like all 14 matches, I've spoken about Rinku. I am personally very happy for him (Rinku) and I do not really have words to describe about him because the entire world has seen what he can do on a cricket field," said Nitsh after a loss to LSG in the final league stage.

Many fans are awaiting an Indian cap for Rinku after these performances, but does Rinku think about it?

Rinku, being his humble self, does not want to dream big yet.

"It feels really good when you have this kind of season, but I am not thinking about selection for the Indian team. I will go home, stick to my routine, and continue to practise," said Rinku after the LSG match on Saturday.

Whether Rinku gets the Indian call-up during the national side's next fixtures would be interesting. Till then, as fans, one can enjoy his slow, but highly satisfying rise in Indian cricket.


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