IPL 2023: Rinku roars and rest is history

25-year-old southpaw from KKR smashes unbeaten 48 off 21 to steal victory from the jaws of defeat against GT
KKR's Rinku Singh stole victory for his team from the jaws of defeat in their IPL 2023 match against Gujarat Titans on April 9, 2023. (Photo | PTI)
KKR's Rinku Singh stole victory for his team from the jaws of defeat in their IPL 2023 match against Gujarat Titans on April 9, 2023. (Photo | PTI)

CHENNAI: Your team needs 39 runs from eight balls. You are the only recognised batter in the middle with a bowler. The fate of your team depends on what you do over the next eight balls. It is the kind of situation where no one, not even your teammates, would have any hopes for a victory. You doing it on the field would be the stuff of dreams. Dreams where you will be the hero who saved the day, where your teammates and coach would run on to the field to lift you above everyone else to celebrate.

If you are an ardent fan of the sport growing up, you would have found yourselves thinking about such situations while going to bed, or daydreaming during a boring mathematics class in school. And quite often you would pull it off and revel in glory. There is a reason why these are the situations you dream about. For it can only happen in your head and not in reality.

Ask Rinku Singh of Kolkata Knight Riders. Last year against Lucknow Super Giants, his team needed 55 runs from 18 balls first and then 38 from 12. Rinku dared to dream. He wanted it to become reality. The southpaw would smash 40 runs of just 15 balls, but in the end, it was not enough. It was a heartbreak for Rinku and KKR as they fell short by two runs.

On Sunday, Rinku once again found himself in a similar situation in Ahmedabad. This time against the Gujarat Titans. Their team had been cruising towards the target of 205 with Venkatesh Iyer leading the way (83 off 40). Then Rashid Khan happened. The Afghan leggie and Titans' skipper for the day would take a hat-trick, leaving GT at 157/7, needing 48 runs from three overs.

It would then become 39 off eight and Rinku was in the middle, batting on eight from 14 balls. Not a good look for a T20 inning. Could he dream of doing it again? Will he be able to endure yet another heartbreak should he fail? Even if he believed, no one else did. Not Iyer who was in the dug out with his teammates. They'd all but given up.

However, Rinku doesn't give up. He doesn't know how to. That has been the story of his life. Right from the early days when he refused the job of a sweeper in a coaching centre to believing that cricket would take him places, Rinku has always believed. He had always dreamt bigger and given his everything for it. That self belief is what brought him this far. He is not just a one-match IPL wonder. For years, he had toiled in the domestic circuit and his numbers are a testament to his ability and why KKR management has backed him year after year. And Sunday was his moment to seize the improbable. To do the unimaginable.

The penultimate ball of the 19th over. Josh Little sends a slower one outside off-stump and Rinku responds by jumping down the ground to launch it over the ropes. Next ball, a short of length delivery and he muscles it to deep-midwicket boundary. 29 needed off six. Still the odds aren't great and Umesh Yadav was on strike. Defence is not Yadav's best suit. He has often been seen slogging more than nudging the ball around. Here he does the smart thing and manages to get a single. Rinku back on strike again, with 28 required off five. All the deliveries left in the Yash Dayal over should be sent over the ropes. Rinku basically will have to do one better than what Carlos Brathwaite did to win the 2016 T20 World Cup for West Indies.

First of the five balls — a full toss with enough width and Rinku lofts it over wide long off for a six. Second, another low full toss, this time on the legs, and he sends it over square leg. Iyer and his teammates are now looking upon Rinku with hopes. Is he really going to do this? This seems possible now. Can he actually do it?  Third ball, another full toss and same result on the off-side. Fourth, short and wide, Rinku clobbers it over long-on. Four off one ball.

This is as close to reality as it can get. Dayal is in tatters after almost every delivery, having not been able to land a single delivery where he wanted. The last ball, almost a repeat of the previous ball, Rinku moves outside, gives himself enough room to smack it over Dayal's head into the stands.

He had done it. Rinku had pulled off a heist, smashing 40 runs off the last seven balls he faced including five consecutive sixes. His teammates are running in towards him with captain Nitesh Rana in the front. They cannot get enough of Rinku. Their coach Chandrakant Pandit — someone who often goes 'winning a match is not it, let's win the trophy and then celebrate' — is in the middle, hugging Rinku, letting out his emotions. This is exactly the kind of situation you would play in your dreams when you were a kid. Except this time, Rinku had made it a reality. Not just for him, but also for KKR. And he was able to do it because he believed. Because he dared to dream.

Brief scores: GT 204/4 in 20 ovs (Vijay Shankar 63, Sai Sudharsan 53) lost to KKR 207/7 in 20 ovs (Iyer 83, Rinku 48 n.o; Rashid 3/37)

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