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"What a start this has been for the champions. They are going to end up playing three, winning three."
The match still had five deliveries left, but commentator Nick Knight had punted all his chips on Gujarat Titans. Rightfully so, perhaps, for all Umesh Yadav could do was to cloth a slower bouncer from Yash Dayal outside the 30-yard circle. With 28 required off the last five deliveries, Kolkata Knight Riders were staring into their second IPL 2023 defeat, facing Gujarat in Ahmedabad, on 9 April.
As Rinku Singh set out his stall for the final assault and lifted a full toss over the ropes off the second delivery, Knight was still confident of the result.
"Extra cover six. You don't see that often. It's not going to be in a winning cause. I'm sure."
By this time, however, the tide had begun to turn, and fellow commentator Chris Morris was quick to sense it. Interestingly, he was the one meeting out this treatment to the opposition bowlers just a few years ago and knew the kind of pressure a bowler faces in the last over, particularly an inexperienced one, when the charge is on.
It all comes down to execution and cricket turns into a one-on-one game rather than a team sport.
"Stranger things have happened Nick. Not over just yet," Morris warned Knight.
Nick Knight was on comms when Rishabh Pant, Ravichandran Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari did the unthinkable in Sydney and Brisbane on India's last Test tour of Australia. But even he did not anticipate what was coming his way.
Honestly, did anyone?
A Miracle in Ahmedabad
KKR needed 29 off the final over – a number which had never been achieved by any T20 team around the world to successfully chase down a total and although three batters had already hit five sixes in an over in the IPL earlier – Chris Gayle, Rahul Tewatia and Ravindra Jadeja – Rinku Singh hardly appeared to be in that league.
By the time Rinku Singh tonked the third delivery from Yash Dayal – another full toss – over backward square leg for six, Knight had sensed the shift.
Dayal delivered yet another full toss on the fourth ball of the over –- his third on the trot – and Rinku Singh deposited it over the long-off boundary.
With 10 required off the last two balls, the shift in momentum was all but evident. KKR were now the favourites, but by the same token, the pressure was now on Rinku as well, especially now that he had brought the team so close to victory from an almost impossible situation.
What Does Pressure Know About Rinku Singh?
Yet, then again, pressure, stress and all of their synonyms are not strangers to Rinku. He comes from a household where his father used to deliver LPG cylinders, his brother drove an auto rickshaw, and even getting the next meal seemed like a struggle at times, this pressure did not amount to much.
"My brother took me to a place where they asked me to be a domestic worker — saaf-safaai aur pochaa maarna (sweeping and mopping). I came back home and told my mother, ‘I will not go again. Let me just try my luck in cricket," Rinku had told Indian Express in an interview earlier.
This was Rinku's moment to do the unexpected and earn his rightful recognition. And, heavens and fortune knew well, he wouldn't allow it to go begging.
Of Heroes and
For all the exposure that the IPL provides the likes of Rinku Singh, there are moments when one has to feel for the youngsters as well. After having done quite well for Gujarat Titans last year, the 25-year-old Uttar Pradesh-born left-arm medium pacer, Yash Dayal was yet to find his feet in IPL 2023 and looked completely lost amid the Rinku Singh assault.
There was also advice flying his way from stand-in captain and hat-trick man Rashid Khan, Jayant Yadav, Shubman Gill, David Miller and almost everyone who had donned blue. For someone who has honed his skill for years and years, objectively, it shouldn't be that difficult to land a cricket ball on a decent length with 29 to defend, but when the heat is on and the sparks go off, that is easier said than done. And yes, the conflabs don't help.
By the time Rinku bludgeoned the fifth delivery down the ground over long-on - a back-off-the-hand slower ball which set up to be hit nicely after pitching, it seemed almost inevitable for the last ball to go the distance as well. Boy, did it not?
How To Become a Protagonist 101:
Another slower ball, another six over the bowler's head, and Rinku Singh who looked like a figure of poise throughout the run chase finally broke free.
Hugs were exchanged a dozen a dime. Rinku was, in quite the literal sense of the word, mobbed by his teammates after the miraculous win and even the usually equanimous head coach Chandrakant Pandit was in a fit of passion.
And why not? Rinku Singh had even broken MS Dhoni's record. Remember, when Mahi smoked 23 off the final over off Axar Patel to take Rising Pune Supergiants to a win off the last delivery to send the CSK fans into a frenzy?
The uncapped batter had just helped KKR overhaul 31 runs in the final over – the highest by any team in the 20th over to win a men's T20 while chasing.
And who had achieved all of this? The relatively unknown Rinku Singh. A 25-year-old left-hand batter from Aligarh who has been piling on the performances in the domestic circuit for quite some time now. But for the IPL fans at large, those numbers don't stand for much.
Even if you are a domestic legend like Vinay Kumar, Ashok Dinda or Jaydev Unadkat but are unable to deliver the goods on the big stage of the IPL, expect no sympathy from the trolls.
What might come as a surprise to many, Rinku Singh boasts of an average of almost 60 in first-class cricket at a strike rate of over 70 with seven centuries and 19 half-centuries from just 40 matches. In domestic 50-over cricket as well, he averages 53 and strikes at 95 with 16 fifties and one century to his name.
KKR, a team which was not given much of a chance before the beginning of IPL 2023, now stand at the second spot in the leaderboard, on the shoulders of Rinku Singh. A sidekick who turned the protagonist in Ahmedabad, against defending champions Gujarat Titans. Who would have thought?
Not Nick Knight, that's for certain.