Rinku Singh's IPL career has finally taken off, after 10 matches spreading three forgettable seasons and a career-threatening knee injury.
The son of a LPG cylinder delivery man grabbed the headlines in 2018 when he became yet another IPL rags-to-riches story after being signed by Kolkata Knight Riders for Rs 80 lakh -- four times his base price. But the fairy tale did not last long. Having made a mark in domestic cricket with his power-hitting, the left-hander failed to deliver at the biggest stage, and in four matches in his debut season, he averaged 7.25 with a strike-rate of 93.54. In 2019, Rinku made just 37 runs from five matches and got only one game in 2020 before missing out of the COVID-hit 2021 season due to a knee injury during UP's memorable Vijay Hazare Trophy 2020-21 campaign, when they made the final for the first time in 16 years.
The UP cricketer went under the knife and then fought his way back with useful contributions in the domestic circuit earlier this year, resulting in him being bought back by his former franchise for Rs 55 lakh. Rinku's idol Suresh Raina, a three-time IPL winner with Chennai Super Kings and under whom he made his UP debut, has seen the 24-year-old's topsy-turvy career from very close quarters. "'Is baar achha karoonga mein' (This time I'll make it). The hunger in him was evident seeing him going through the grind in training," Raina told PTI about Rinku's latest rise. "He has worked a lot on his fitness post injury and made a proper comeback. He has scored a lot of runs in domestic cricket and it's showing in his form now," Raina added.
Rinku got a chance in the ongoing IPL in only their eighth match (vs Gujarat Titans), after KKR suffered a hat-trick of defeats. His best came against Rajasthan Royals when he smashed a 23-ball 42 not out and also grabbed two catches as KKR returned to winning ways after five losses on the trot. "He's looking good, he's a good fielder and also bowls (offspin). It was a crucial match for KKR (to keep their chances alive) and to come up in such a time and take the team home speaks volumes about his character, mindset. He has it in him," Raina said. Rinku's biggest quality, Raina feels is: "He's a fearless cricketer -- a big quality in T20 format." So does he have it in him to make the India team? "I just want him to enjoy, keep playing freely, then it's up to God. If he keeps playing like this, you then know he has all what it takes to go all the way," added the fifth highest all-time IPL run getter.
Third among five siblings including a sister, Rinku has gone through a lot of hardships since childhood. Raised in a small two-room quarters in his father Khanchandra Singh's LPG distribution company storage compound near Aligarh Stadium, Rinku nearly turned a sweeper to deal with their poverty. But then, the class 9 dropout ran away to pursue his dream in cricket, and he has not looked back since. His cricketing journey started under coach Masood-uz-Zafar Amini who was impressed with his "natural stroke-making ability". He made his UP under-16 debut in 2012 and then made the cut for the U-19 when former cricketer Gyanendra Pandey was the selector. "I have known him since I was an under-19 selector. We picked him for the junior side and he has not disappointed us. He is a self-made cricketer," said 49-year-old Pandey, who played two ODIs for India.
But it was during their 2020-21 Vijay Hazare Trophy campaign when Pandey was the coach, that Rinku showed his true hunger. "He made an unbeaten 62 against Karnataka, I could remember the knock vividly after seeing his dominating innings against the Royals on Monday," Pandey said. "Unfortunately he could not play the knockout stage as his knee had to be operated. But the way he has come back with more determination now. Hope he goes all the way," Pandey concluded.