Tour of SA: Rinku Singh, a believer in Dhoni’s tips and Bajrangbali

The finisher could provide the X-factor for India in the T20 World Cup next year

Indian cricketer Rinku Singh (photo: BCCI)
Indian cricketer Rinku Singh (photo: BCCI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

If anyone had wagered before IPL 2023 that Rinku Singh could be very much in the running for a finisher’s spot in the T20 World Cup 2024, it would have been wishful thinking at its best. Well, the Aligarh boy stands on the threshold of realising his dream after a phenomenal eight months now — though there could be many a slip between the cup and the lip with the amount of jostling for space in the Indian middle order. 

The abandonment of the first T20I against South Africa in Durban owing to rains on Sunday robbed the new-look Indian team of a chance to test themselves against the hosts — always a handful in their own backyard — but the next match is again on Tuesday, 12 December. Like the rest, Rinku is waiting to have a go even as he admits that the extra bounce on South African wickets offers an interesting challenge. 

‘’This is the first time I have got a chance to work under Rahul Dravid sir. He made it clear that no. 5 will be my position, and told me to carry on the same way that I play,’’ Rinku said in a video interaction with It’s certainly not an easy position to play in, as one has to adapt to the needs of the team, but the self-effacing cricketer feels he is no stranger to it. 

‘’I have played in this position ever since my first-class debut for Uttar Pradesh. If the team loses early wickets, then you have to build a partnership while on the other hand, if you are getting just a few overs to bat, you have to make the most of them,’’ he said in his trademark style.

If the Kolkata Knight Riders batter is being talked about a fair bit in recent months despite still trying to cement his place in the T20 squad among established names like Shubman Gill, Suryakumar Yadav and Shreyas Iyer, it’s not without reason. 

The recently concluded series against Australia at home, which the men in blue won 4-1, saw Rinku finish with 105 from five matches — an aggregate which was not enough to set the stage on fire. However, it's the critical contributions which he made in propping up the team’s total in batting first or finishing the game which has set him apart from other rising stars on the horizon. 

Yes, in international cricket, one cannot have Rinku clobbering five sixes in one over — such as in the IPL innings against Gujarat Titans which was a gamechanger for him — but his crucial innings of 46 (off 29 balls) against Australia in the fourth T20I drove India’s total to a competitive 175. India won the match by 20 runs to take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series.  

In a short international career, which began with a debut series in Ireland, Rinku has scored 180 runs in 10 innings, but without a single half-century. His highest score, in fact, was 46 in the Australia game, but his strike rate had been 187.5, the precise reason why he would be a popular choice in any short format team. Time and again over the past year, he has shown a rare cricket sense and calm head in finishing the job for his team by hitting cricketing shots in front of the wicket — and one feels that’s how he should go about his job.    

In an interview some time ago, Rinku revealed how he had picked the brains of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, a man who knows a thing or two about finishing. ‘’The chat with Mahi bhai was really productive. He has also batted in similar numbers as I do, at 5 or 6, and he has done it for the majority of his career and knows the position inside out. I simply asked him how to better my game, and his advice was simple: ‘Bohot sahi batting kar raha hai, jo tu kar raha hai, wahi karta reh (you are batting fine, just stick to it)',’’ he had said.

It had been less than a week that India has set foot in South Africa, but Rinku has made a fair assessment about what kind of wickets are in store. "There is extra bounce in the wickets, and one has to use the pace off the wicket in going for the shots,’’ he said. 

A man of simple tastes, Rinku revealed how he keeps playing Hanuman Chalisa — prayers to Lord Hanuman — in his room. "I am a big follower of Bajrangbali and keep listening to his songs the whole day as it gives me strength," he added.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines