Tough times made me stronger every time.
This is what Rinku Singh had said during an interview back in 2018, just after Kolkata Knight Riders had picked him up in the IPL auction that year, for a sum of Rs 80 lakh. And if you have followed all of KKR's matches closely this season, you have probably witnessed how Rinku has walked the talk! Every time KKR found themselves in trouble, Rinku stepped up and saved the day for them.
It did take him five years to show what he is capable of, but now that he is here, he has ensured that there is nobody who can come even remotely close to compete for his place in the KKR XI.
Amassing 474 runs at an average of nearly 60 and strike-rate of 150 is no child's play. And when you realise that all of these runs have come while fulfilling the demanding role of a middle-order batter, it becomes clear how big an achievement it is.
The 25-year-old catapulted himself to fame for the first time when he smashed Yash Dayal for five consecutive sixes in the last over of KKR's match against the Gujarat Titans to get his team home. It was a magical moment, something that had rarely been witnessed before! Everyone remembers Carlos Braithwaite's four consecutive sixes off Ben Stokes to win the T20 World Cup for West Indies in 2016. At that time, we thought this was rarely going to be repeated again, but here was Rinku going one step further and hitting five in a row!
It was nothing short of a miracle! In a team that had someone like Andre Russell, nobody expected a pocket-size dynamite like Rinku to do something so unimaginable. But he did it and made it one of the most memorable moments in the history of the IPL. He overcame a tough situation in a grand manner and made it an opportunity to launch himself on the path of success!
Expectations of the fans, pundits, and his own teammates had increased from him after that sensational knock. And the real challenge now was showing the world that it wasn't just a one-off knock, rather he has it in him to be a dependable player consistently for his side.
Rinku did that without breaking a sweat! After pulling off that heist in Ahmedabad, Rinku went on to play many more impactful knocks. Among these, his 54 off 43 deliveries against CSK in Chepauk and unbeaten 67 in just 33 deliveries against Lucknow in Kolkata were the best. The knock against CSK led KKR to a victory, whereas the one against Lucknow led them quite close to the target from a tricky situation. KKR ended up losing that match by just a solitary run, bringing an end to their IPL 2023 campaign.
In a struggling batting line-up for most of the season, Rinku gave KKR dependability and consistency in the middle-order. In a batting unit that had big names like Andre Russell, Jason Roy, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Nitish Rana, Rinku emerged as their most important batter.
The 25-year-old registered seven scores of 40 or more in this entire IPL season. In fact, 305 of his total aggregate of 474 runs in IPL 2023 came while chasing, that too at a mind-blowing average and strike-rate of 152.5 and 174.3 respectively. KKR found themselves in tricky situations in most cases while chasing, and Rinku ended up reviving their innings time and again.
Life had already prepared Rinku for the tough grind at a young age. He grew up in a family where his father used to deliver LPG cylinders for a living. One of his brothers used to drive an auto-rickshaw. They used to live in a tin-roofed two-bedroom house in Aligarh. His family was so much in debt that even Rinku had to take up the job of a sweeper to make ends meet. But he never gave up on cricket, and still practiced 14 hours a day with hopes that someday he will achieve something with the game he loved so much.
Five years down the line, his hard work has paid off! Navigating through tricky situations is now a cakewalk for him. His temperament, determination, ice-cool head in tense situations and ability to deliver under pressure has earned him a fan following that only a few players in the country can dream of.
He is now adored by an entire nation and has attained the figure of a cult-hero among KKR fans. Rinku is Kolkata's Poster Boy now. We have heard chants of 'Sachin, Sachin', 'Kohli, Kohli', and 'Dhoni, Dhoni' all these years. Now we got to hear repeated chants of 'Rinku, Rinku' in a packed Eden Gardens stadium throughout the season, and he isn't even a national team player yet like the other legends.
But his performance has definitely put him on the Indian team selectors' radar. Ravi Shastri has been strongly advocating for his selection in the national team set up before the World Cup later this year.
"The more I see of him (Rinku), that guy has got a fabulous temperament. He's tough as nails," Ravi Shastri was quoted as saying in an episode of The ICC Review Show.
Rinku's IPL success shouldn't only give him the label of a white-ball specialist, though. In fact, he has been grinding hard in domestic cricket for a number of years now and he has an excellent record in first-class cricket as well.
The Uttar Pradesh batter has amassed 2875 First-class runs in 40 matches, at an excellent average of 59.89. That includes seven hundreds and 19 fifties as well. Rinku also averages 53 in List A cricket, and that is after featuring in 50 matches. These numbers sum up that he isn't just a one-trick pony, and he certainly has it in him to succeed in all formats.
Only time will tell whether he is going to get his national call-up soon, but he has been making all the right moves at present.
Rinku Singh's story is an inspiring one, where a small-town boy dared to dream big and finally made it among the big boys. This is not the end of his story, though. In fact, he is just getting started. He has already captured the heart of a city, captivated an entire nation, and now he is getting ready to take over the entire world as well!