Photo Credit: Kolkata Knight Riders
One of the sprightliest characters in the KKR family is our guest in this episode of Knights Unplugged. Rinku Singh – a man who dared to dream and pursued those dreams with all his might to have them fulfilled. Rinku became a part of KKR in 2018 and that auction changed his life. In this candid chat, we get a sneak peek at Rinku’s life both on and off the field. Excerpts:
Hi Rinku, we all know Nitish is your best friend in KKR. But other than him, who else are you close to?
Rinku: In the first year, Nitish (Rana) bhai and Apoorv (Wankhede) bhai used to be with me. Then in the next year, Apoorv bhai left. So, I started spending a lot of time with Kuldeep bhai and Nitish bhai.
This year you will complete 3 years with KKR. How has the experience been?
Rinku: The experience has been great. I have learnt so many things. I got to play such high-level cricket with legendary cricketers. My experience also grew on how to treat a match on its merit.
We also heard that Andre Russell and you are great friends. How did you strike the chord with him and how has the journey been?
Rinku: I haven’t really spoken much with him because I can’t speak in English that well. But yeah, the first year we enjoyed a lot on his birthday in our room. We even partied and danced together. So, I guess we started bonding well afterwards.
You have trained in the KKR Academy under Abhishek Nayar. It’s obvious that you must have learnt a great deal about T20 cricket there. But did the training help in red ball cricket as well?
Rinku: Of course, it helped a lot. Last year, I did so well because of that. I scored around 950 runs in Ranji Trophy in 2018-19. I didn’t do well in the one-dayers (before Ranji Trophy) and I had spoken to Abhishek sir about it. I told him about the difficulties I was facing in batting and that I wanted to practise with him. He called me over and we trained a lot. I don’t think I have ever batted so much in my life as much as I did there. For almost 5 hours every day I used to continue batting and my hands even bled at times. The perseverance paid off in the Ranji Trophy later that season.
During the off-season camp, you stayed together with your teammates in a house. Abhishek made you dance and indulge in art as well. Tell us something about the experience.
Rinku: It was great. Dancing actually gives us a lot of stamina and it’s fun! We were gymming together and took part in many other activities. Overall, it was a fun experience.
2018 auction changed your life. You even got a tattoo done for this. Tell us about what you felt that day.
Rinku: In 2018, I actually went for the Mumbai Indians trials before the auctions. I hit 95 runs in 31 balls in one of those games. So, I was actually expecting Mumbai to pick me and not KKR. Kuldeep bhai told me that he already had a word with the KKR management about me and there was a chance. So, I was watching the auctions with a lot of anticipation. Mumbai Indians and KKR are both big names in IPL. On the auction day, I had secluded myself and watched the bidding all alone. My family watched it separately. It was a great feeling when the money soared and I finally was sold for the amount I got picked for.
What was going on in your mind? Were you nervous?
Rinku: I was only excited that I would get to play for such a big team and that I would finally be able to put an end to the financial crisis at home.
You previously spoke about your family’s condition and shared with us how the money that you had received from IPL helped your family. Are they proud of you?
Rinku: Honestly, they are very happy. We had never experienced such a windfall before IPL happened. We now have our own house. And I also gifted a car to my father.
Let’s talk about First Class cricket. You have an average of 60. You have been the highest run-getter as well. How has the experience been to play for UP? And how do you maintain this aggression with the bat?
Rinku: My average shot up last year when I scored 950 odd runs in Ranji Trophy. Last year my average was around 70. This year it actually dipped to 60. I tried to maintain it but couldn’t manage to. In red ball cricket, you have to be extremely focused and need to be mentally strong. The ball moves quite a bit and even the wicket conditions change over the days. So, we need to keep our focus intact.
Most of your great knocks have come in do-or-die situations. Do you like to play under pressure?
Rinku: I like it because I am used to batting at No. 5. When I walk into the middle, we are mostly in critical situations. I generally take a stalk of the situation and play my own game and never bow down to pressure.
You have a tendency to attack the bowlers from the very first ball. Is it an attitude you developed after playing IPL? Or have you always been aggressive?
Rinku: It’s my natural game. I LOVE scoring runs. After playing 3-4 balls, I just want to hit the ball out of the park. It’s just my nature.
There is one more aggressive play in the KKR team: Andre Russell. Did you get to learn something from him in the nets?
Rinku: There is no one who can hit the ball better than him. He has a lot of life and strength in him. His sixes are massive and I just don’t see any batsman as a competition to him. He is the best all-rounder in the world at this moment.
You love fielding a lot. When did you first realise that you are a great fielder?
Rinku: I was not really a good fielder earlier. My fitness wasn’t great either. But then I started working on it. We all know fielding is very important in cricket. So, I started focusing on both my fitness and fielding. I did a lot of work on improving my speed in the field, and by God’s grace, I am a good fielder now.
You won the Man of the Series award in a school tournament and won a bike. This changed the perspective of your family about cricket. Can you tell us the story?
Rinku: My father didn’t really want me to play cricket. He always used to insist that I should focus on studies. There was this tournament in Aligarh and Delhi Public School supremo Swapnil Jain was present during the match. We beat their team and I came up with the best performance. If I remember it right, I was unbeaten on 68. After seeing my batting, he actually got me admitted to his school. I played for DPS for a few years. In 2012, they had organised a World Cup where teams from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh came to play. I scored 354 runs and took 8 wickets, because of which I was given the Man of the Series award and the bike. My parents were present on the ground. My father used to often beat me up whenever I wanted to play cricket but after this match, he never touched me again.
Have you set any goals or do you have any dreams as a cricketer?
Rinku: I guess it’s everyone’s dream to represent the country. I have set small goals. To start with, I want to do well in IPL. Then I want to play for India A and eventually for India. I definitely want to play for India in the next few years.
Do you have any roadmap for being selected in Team India? Do you think strong performances in domestic cricket can be a key?
Rinku: Domestic performances are definitely crucial. After scoring those 950 runs, I ended up playing for Rest of India, India A and Board President’s XI. So, yes, domestic cricket makes a lot of difference.