Rinku Singh Could Be an Ace in India’s Pack at T20 World Cup

Source: X (BCCI)

It’s  haemorrhaged runs in this T20I series against Australia. It just seems like, after the more conventional 50-over format, the dam has broken. The batters seemed to have had enough and have thrown caution to the wind. So what has changed in a matter of less than a week. And against a similar sort of opposition, on pitches that haven’t been altered?  Let’s deep-dive into the possible reasons. 

Both the teams are at about 50 per cent capacity, and rightly so. After a long and gruelling World Cup, the seniors needed a break, more mentally than physically. Australia have felt the heat a little more because those who stayed back have felt it to the bone – homesick and jaded. Whether you play or not, it does take a toll. Sometimes, that’s more so when you are not playing regularly. On the other side, only two players from India’s World Cup squad are in this one – Suryakumar Yadav is leading, while Ishan Kishan is an aspirant for the opening slot at the T20 World Cup next year. 

This brings us to the question that is on everyone’s mind. Will Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli be in the mix for that T20 World Cup? For me, the answer is simple. They have a head start not because of what they have done in the past, but because of the way they played in the just-concluded World Cup. How they do in the IPL, how they do in the matches preceding the T20 World Cup, what their competitors do – everything should be taken into consideration. The logjam is at the top. Rohit, Virat, Shubman Gill , Ruturaj Gaikwad, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Kishan – all these contenders for the first three spots. If you ever fancied becoming an Indian selector, decode this one for us, please? For me, the No. 4, 5 and 6 spots are Shreyas Iyer, Surya and Rinku Singh.

With the big gloves, the contenders are Rishabh Pant, Kishan and KL Rahul. With Rahul and Kishan part of that crowd at the top, how Pant recovers and goes through the grind of the IPL will be of prime importance. For me, the selection issues are at the top. In the middle and lower-middle order, India’s options are limited. That is the most difficult place to bat. One does not get the liberty of the power play, the ball is slightly older, and hence it either grips depending on the surface, and with the whiteness gone, the mystery spinners are right in the mix.

Many more risks have to be taken to hit boundaries and one is expected to get going right away.  Which is also why we have not seen too many players play at this position for India in the last decade. It always take special players to play these positions for a period of time and MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina (though he batted at No. 5 a lot for India) were certainly such.  

The spinners in the fray will be Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, both allrounders, and Ravi Bishnoi, who is being given an extended run. Rahul Chahar and Yuzvendra Chahal will also have the full attention of the selectors. IPL 2024 will have a huge bearing on which spinners make it. Intel says that the team that has ability to take wickets between overs 6 and 15 are the most successful ones. That is where, for me, the leg-spinners will have a huge role to play along with Jadeja. If any team is 125-2 after 15 overs, you are looking down the barrel. A leather hunt awaits. So it’s all about picking up wickets.

Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Prasidh Krishna, Mukesh Kumar and Arshdeep Singh will be fighting it out for five slots in the squad. The first three pick themselves and the others have to perform, impress and be consistent. Who will bowl with the new ball in the power play, and who will at the back end are the roles that will be discussed while finalising the squad. 

Rinku, for me, is a very special player. He is no flash in the pan. I was with KKR when he was drafted into the team in 2018, and he was nothing close to the finished product. He played a few games and struggled. IPL is a hell of a tough gig. As good as he was, it was not until the 2022 season that the whole world saw the ready Rinku. Kudos to the management at KKR that believed in him, and held his hand at a very crucial juncture of his life. This is how players are developed. More so because KKR have been guilty of letting a couple of very promising T20 players fly away from their nest – namely Gill, of late, and Sanju Samson back in the day. Those two have not done too badly for themselves, have they?

What Rinku has is an extraordinary ability and the more he plays, the better he gets. He is a great lad, gun fielder and has a very steady head on those strong shoulders. And for me, he is a multi-format player. In first-class cricket for UP, he averages 57.82 with the bat with 3000-plus runs. In List A cricket, it’s 49.83 with close to 2000 runs. I hope and pray he gets his due because you will not meet too many better people than Rinku. When you see players like him succeed, from a humble background and after all that he has been through, it just reiterates that there is a God above. So much hope he brings to every young boy dreaming of playing this beautiful game. 

Lastly, most of us are very perturbed at the pounding the bowlers have taken in this T20 series. In T20 games, batters fail and are often forgiven, because the format allows you that. They get out and are back in the pavilion. Someone else, more often than not, would come and do the job. Seven batters play, two or three come through and you are sorted. But for the bowlers, five play and none can have an off day. Not a level playing field, is it?

The bowler cannot bowl 1.3 overs and say I am done for the day, someone bail me out. On the other hand, it is a one-ball game for the batters and the bowlers get multiple chances to get it right. So we need to feel for the bowlers a little more and give them a much longer rope. Everything is in favour of the batters – the flat decks, and the 60-65 yard boundaries.  

It’s not hard to extrapolate how successful people operate. Single-minded, obsessive, with great attention to detail, never accepting being second-best – that’s what takes them to the winners’ league. Kohli, Rohit, Bumrah, Shami and Jadeja have this. It will be interesting to see which of these other men feeds off that. Yes, India lost a World Cup final after winning 10 games on the trot, but there are some really interesting times ahead for Indian cricket.

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