Asian Games: Rinku Singh rides on destiny and skill | Cricket

Ask fans what their favourite moment was in this year’s Indian Premier League and most will probably tell you it was Rinku Singh’s five consecutive sixes. That rare feat ensured the 25-year-old from Aligarh was one of the main attractions in every KKR game thereafter in IPL 2023, a season in which he scored 474 runs at an average of 59.25 and strike-rate of 149.53.

Rinku Singh plays a shot during the 2nd T20I againt Ireland, at The Village in Dublin on Sunday. (ANI Photo) (BCCI Twitter) PREMIUM
Rinku Singh plays a shot during the 2nd T20I againt Ireland, at The Village in Dublin on Sunday. (ANI Photo) (BCCI Twitter)

And this craze continued during India’s tour of Ireland too, which was his first international assignment, as chants of “Rinkuuu… Rinku” echoed constantly in Dublin. The left-hander got to bat just once in the three-match T20I series, but he managed to make an impression again by hitting a match-winning 38 off 21.

It’s been an incredible few months for Rinku, who comes from a humble background and made his first-class debut for Uttar Pradesh in 2016. He joined Kolkata Knight Riders in 2018 but it was only this year that he was given a consistent run, and he grabbed the chance to emerge as one of the most promising Indian finishers.

After battling the odds and toiling away for years, he finally got the India call-up and it was a moment he will never forget.

“We had a camp in Bengaluru before the Ireland tour and it felt great to finally be a part of the Indian team setup,” said Rinku on the sidelines of the inaugural UP T20 league in Kanpur.

“Before departing for the tour from Mumbai, I saw my India jersey for the first time and was overwhelmed with emotions. I kissed the BCCI logo on it and showed the jersey to my mother on video call. The thing I had worked so hard to achieve all my life was right in front of me, it felt amazing.”

There is versatility in Rinku’s batting that allows him to pick boundaries either side of the pitch. Despite being diminutive for a finisher, he packs a punch thanks to a steady base and timing.

“Suresh Raina is my idol and I keep talking to him,” said Rinku. “He tells me I should give myself time in the IPL while I’m batting. If you have the belief, you can hit the ball later in your innings. Mahi bhai (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) used to tell me the same thing. He advised me to try and hit straight as much as possible and to let the bowler do whatever he wants, I should simply react to the ball. It doesn’t help to keep thinking what the bowler might do.”

Another standout feature of his batting is how composed he looks at the crease. Often, we see batters swing too hard and struggle for timing during crunch moments. But Rinku displays a remarkable sense of maturity in such situations. According to him, it all comes down to self-belief, controlled breathing and the ability to block everything else out and simply focus on the moment.

“You have to make yourself calm. You can’t just think you will take apart whoever comes in front of you. There are high class bowlers competing and you have to control your nerves. Belief is everything,” he said.

“I wasn’t always a calm player; it has happened over the past two-three years. Abhishek Nayar helped me a lot in this regard at the KKR academy. He makes me do yoga and offers a lot of motivation. It isn’t easy to hit from the first ball, you need some time to settle in. I practice a lot imagining I’m batting at No. 5 or 6 and put pressure on myself. So, I’ve developed a habit to deal with tense situations.”

Next up for him are the Asian Games in Hangzhou, where India will be fielding a relatively inexperienced squad led by Ruturaj Gaikwad. A lot of the focus right now is, of course, on the Asia Cup and the upcoming ODI World Cup. But Rinku is certain the selectors and fans will keep a keen eye on the Asian Games as well.

“I’m really excited to go to China, it’ll be a new experience at a different sort of event,” he said. “Our team could win a gold medal if we perform well, and everyone knows how valuable that is to a country.”

At the moment, he may not be in the reckoning as far as the 50-over format is concerned but there’s another T20 World Cup coming up in nine months and he could very much be in the running. For Rinku, though, living in the moment, as he does when he’s batting, is the key.

The prospect of representing India at a World Cup is exciting but it’s not something he’s going to lose sleep over.

“I’ve played only one international series so far and will have to grab every opportunity I get,” said Rinku. “If I do that, I could get picked for the T20 World Cup next year. To be honest, I don’t worry much about the future. Things tend to become messy if one does that. No one can steal what’s written in my destiny. It’ll be great if I make it but if I don’t, it’ll still be fine.”

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