IND vs IRE 2nd T20: IPL star Rinku Singh lives up to his reputation with 38 off 21 in 33-run win over Ireland

Rinku Singh cameo helps India post 185 for 5, total Ireland 33 runs behind. India lead 2-0 in three-match series.

Rinku Singh IND vs IRERinku Singh would hit 38 off 21 balls to reel India to 185 for 5, an Ireland total trailing by 33 runs, and thus lose the series, but only after sending the crowd into a tailspin. (Twitter/BCCI)

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Even before Rinku Singh marked guard for his first international knock, his six-hit reputation preceded him. A group of excited teenagers waved a two-foot banner that read, “One six from here, please.” The gallery buzzed, anticipation swelled and a sweaty anticipation filled the stands. It’s been almost four months since he boosted their cricketing consciousness with a five-ball-five-six heist for Kolkata Knight Riders against Gujarat Titans.

He would hit 38 off 21 balls to reel India to 185 for 5, with Ireland trailing by 33 runs in total, and so lost the series, but only after sending the crowd into a tailspin.

The memory of his six hits remains fresh and bright. It catapulted him to overnight fame, but it could also turn into a burden. Every time he faces a ball, he dashes the hope of a six, and every time he doesn’t hit one, there is a wave of disappointment. But Rinku, hardened by life and the hardships he endured to build a career, knows the fickleness of fanfare. โ€œThis is two minutes of fame, ye log jo aaj wah-wa kar rahe hai, wahi log kal gaali bhi dege, if I fail. (If I fail, the same people will make fun of me),โ€ he had once told this newspaper.

Thus, he is not drawn into playing to the gallery, a trap that has ensnared many ambitious youths of the past, nor is he too drawn to fame and fortune. The Malahide crowd rose to their feet for every ball he faced and chanted the six chants, like a mantra. But he kept his head, and almost anticlimactically, didn’t attempt anything bold in the first 16 balls he faced. The only boundary so far came off a sweep, a basic shot by him, when leg-spinner Ben White hit the ball outside the off-stump to an absolutely sweeping length. The remaining balls, he deflects or pushes, slides or guides through the gaps.

Doubts would have crept in suddenly. Was his five-ball-five-six feat an aberration? A combination of stars? Is he really as good as advertised?

Then there’s the way he always bats. He needs time to get his eye in, feel the pace and bounce of the surface, gauge the bowlers and process the situation. He is rarely in a self-destructive hurry. Even on his six-run spree, he was alert at the start, looking flawless in the middle of the innings, before discovering his batting zen out of nowhere. And here he captured the flow of the match beautifully. India were 105 for three in 12.2 overs when Sanju Samson dragged a short ball onto his stumps for an impressive 40 off 26 balls and Rinku came on. to strike deeper and then unpack his box with six strikes to the death. A well-worn tip from his idol and master finisher MS Dhoni must have rang in his ears. โ€œTu bus khada rahe, bowler ko joh karna hai karne de (just keep hitting, let the bowlers do what they want). The bowlers are under more pressure than you are.”

The best middle-order batsmen and finishers are masters of this, of feeling their role at a particular juncture in the game, revising and improvising it on the fly, and remaining calm under pressure, as if locked in a bubble. Rinku is not yet a finished product in international cricket, he could face tougher challenges and tougher bowlers in the future. But he created a scintillating account of himself, his ability and maturity to fill the middle-order holes for his country going forward.

He later admitted that he was gathering information from his IPL experience. โ€œI was confident and trying to use the IPL experience. I was trying to take the game deep,” he said after receiving the man of the match award.

Once the crowd’s voice started to drop, it shifted through the gears. The crowd pumped up their speakers. Barry McCarthy’s intended yorker was a little shorter, and his quick, strong hands flicked it past point. A slower ball followed and Rinku dropped low to his crease, curled before the bounce and scorned the ball over the long-on fence. A typical stroke from him if you had seen him bat in IPL and domestic cricket.

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Certain aspects stand out, such as the solid base he creates to swing his bat. Like Rishabh Pant, also relatively short, he lowers his body, almost crouches, to generate power from his lower half. He has explosive power and can combine power with timing. The next legal ball was also hit wildly, again he went low under another attempted yorker that went wrong and he hit it over cover for a six. In the next over, Mark Adair fell horribly and Rinku effortlessly drove him to square. He missed the next ball but his 21-ball 38 was the fuel behind India reaching 185 for five.

The last-innings burst epitomized Rinku in a nutshell. The last 22 runs had come off just five balls. A junior explosive like him is what India have been craving for years.

The fireworks changed the nature of the game, at a time when Ireland’s lucky bowlers managed to stem the flow of boundaries and a wave of excitement swept through the crowd, shouting his name and jumping in the stands. Suffice it to say that it lived up to the reputation that had preceded it to the waist.

First published on: 21-08-2023 at 00:27 IST

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