Short batting time for KKR and cross-bat game: How Rinku lost out on T20 World Cup selection

Rinku Singh featuring in India vs Ireland series (Credit: @rinkukumar12)

In 11 T20I innings so far for India, Rinku Singh has scored 38 (21), 37* (15), 22* (14), 31* (9), 46 (29), 6 (8), 68* (39), 14 (10), 16* (9), 9* (9), and 69* (39), averaging 89 with a strike-rate of 176.23. Given Rinku’s outstanding performance for India in the shortest format, there was an uproar on social media as pundits and fans questioned the Ajit Agarkar-led selection committee for dropping the Uttar Pradesh batter. Rinku learned about the decision before leaving for Mumbai on Tuesday evening for Kolkata Knight Riders’ next game against Mumbai Indians and there was a sense of disappointment with the development.

Rinku has scarcely put a foot wrong in T20Is. In his last match for India against Afghanistan in January, he smashed an unbeaten 69 off 39, coming to the crease when his team was struggling at 22 for 4. Although the selection committee has until May 23 to make changes to the provisional squad and Rinku has been named in the reserves, certain factors went against the 26-year-old when he found himself competing directly with Shivam Dube and Axar Patel.

Except for KKR’s last game against Delhi Capitals, Rinku hasn’t had the opportunity to bat in the top five in the ongoing IPL. He faced just 82 deliveries in eight innings, scoring 123 runs with a strike-rate of 150. While franchises have the right to use their resources as needed, KKR somewhat lowered Rinku’s position in the batting order by promoting Venkatesh Iyer and Angkrish Raghuvanshi. By strictly labelling him as a ‘finisher’, KKR may have overlooked Rinku’s ability to build an innings in the middle overs. Notably, he averages 54.70 in 48 first-class matches and 48.69 in 57 List A matches. Rinku’s ability is more than just that of a ‘finisher’. He needed a few more opportunities in the ongoing IPL to get into the Indian team.

Meanwhile, Dube has faced 203 deliveries, scoring 350 runs at an average of 58.33 and a staggering strike-rate of 172.41. One significant difference between Rinku and Dube is their batting positions. Dube has mostly batted at No. 4 or 5 for Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2024. Although Dube hasn’t bowled in this IPL yet, he has been regularly used as a bowler in T20Is since his comeback in 2023. Be it against Ireland, at the Hangzhou Asian Games or against Afghanistan, Dube has consistently rolled his arm over and chipped in with wickets here and there.

“In the Afghanistan series, Rohit (Sharma) bhai told me, ‘you will bat and bowl too, we want to see what you can do, just express yourself’, and that helped and motivated me,” Dube told in a video released on Tuesday.

Dube’s ability to bowl gentle medium pace has worked in his favour. Considering Hardik Pandya’s current form with the ball, Dube is likely to be called upon to bowl during the T20 World Cup. As for Axar Patel, the Delhi Capitals all-rounder could be used as a floater in the batting unit if selected in the playing XI. Although Axar hasn’t frequently batted higher up in the order during IPL 2024, he recently scored 66 off 43 balls when asked to bat at No. 3 against Gujarat Titans. His economical bowling in the ongoing IPL, where runs are being scored freely, has also gone in Axar’s favour. Like Rinku, both Dube and Axar excel against spinners.

“Rinku just hasn’t had enough batting opportunities in the IPL. It was a tough decision. Shivam and Axar can chip in with overs which Rinku can’t,” a source in the know told RevSportz. “With shorter square boundaries in the Caribbean, we need someone to dominate those areas. No one fits that role better than Shivam. It may sound unfortunate, but that was what the selectors decided.”

After the USA-leg, India will play matches in Barbados, Antigua, St. Lucia and either Guyana or Trinidad. Given the shorter square boundaries in the grounds there compared to straight boundaries, India opted for Dube, who is a powerful hitter against spinners, especially square of the wicket. While Rinku is strong in the ‘V’, Dube’s ability to hit horizontal-bat shots and sixes, even against spin, earned him the nod over Rinku. The same goes for Axar whose attacking play against spinners worked in his favour. Axar also provides flexibility to increase India’s batting depth with his accurate stump-to-stump bowling.

Considering the mixed form of pacers Arshdeep Singh, Mohammed Siraj and Hardik Pandya in IPL 2024, Rohit & Co are looking to have multiple bowling options. In this scenario, Dube and Axar are better suited, Rinku unfortunately missing out notwithstanding.

Given the challenges with readying all-rounders, it wouldn’t be surprising if the BCCI decides to scrap the much-debated Impact Player Rule in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the IPL next season. But for now, missing out on the T20 World Cup selection is tough luck for Rinku.