In a remarkable display of batting prowess, Rinku Singh smashed five successive sixes to clinch a victory for Kolkata Knight Riders in an IPL match, catapulting himself to immediate fame Image Credit: Sportzpics for IPL

There are two types of cricket fans. One, who for the love of the game even take IPL seriously and the second who because of their passion for cricket see the IPL as anything but a game.

I fall into the latter category, this even before former chief of BCCI’s anticorruption unit and ex Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar released a book which spotlights how private cricket leagues are scripted and a hot bed of everything that is wrong in Indian cricket.

But amid the scepticism and the cynicism, there are some tales, unscripted, that bring a smile to jaded fans like me. Every IPL season throws up a name, a rank outsider who puts faith back in the good fight, the one that wins hearts through audacious, no frills talent.

This is when all hype, big names and the never retiring cheerleaders fall into the background as new stories are written and lives re-set. Like that of Rinku Singh.

KKR's Rinku Singh in action Image Credit: AFP

Five sixes that made sporting history

This season for now at least, already belongs to the Aligarh born 25-year-old. Needing 28 runs from the last five balls against Gujarat Titans, the Kolkata Knight Riders batsman hit five consecutive sixes to achieve not just the impossible but also a place in sporting history. It is also the latest chapter of a rags to riches story.

Rinku first got an IPL contract in 2017, a dream come true for any Indian cricketer but his base price auction wasn’t the passage to good times as he would have hoped. Until three years ago his family was in debt and living in squalor.

The cricketer’s father delivers cooking gas cylinders- a motorcycle that Rinku won in a tournament was handed to him to ease the transporting of cylinders- and his elder brother has swapped roles between being a sweeper and an autorickshaw driver. Rinku says he has also sat pillion with his father several times helping him in his job, it was expected of him and his brothers.

The cricketer remembers the time when he was just starting out in the sport and was offered jobs as a sweeper and for mopping in a coaching centre. Despite his father’s objections to cricket, he ran away. The sport is lucky that he said no.

Talent shines through

“I had no other option but to focus hard on cricket,” he says. It was a test not just of his career but with a family in financial difficulties, Rinku had to perform. However, his success is monetary and more.

In 2018 Rinku was bought for 80 lakhs by Kolkata Knight Riders. “I had never seen so much money,” he says. And, that is the beauty of sport, not just cricket.

Those with talent will shine and find their spot in the sun whether it is Neeraj Chopra from the small town of Panipat, Mirabai Chanu who belongs to Imphal East or cricketer MS Dhoni from Ranchi.

The biggest criticism of IPL is that the lucrative and cash rich league tempts players to such an extent that some prioritise playing here over the Indian team. It is not unheard of big players getting injured while playing IPL just ahead of a crucial series or tournament.

Shah Rukh Khan, of Kolkata Knight Riders, was overjoyed as Rinku Singh captivated the audience with his batting heroics during an enthralling match against Gujarat Titans at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad

A star is born

But it is small town India that continues to chip away, one run at a time. Rinku however will be aware that he is but a small fish in a large pond. IPL plays true to its form- fame is instant, it plucks a player from near anonymity straight to the first page- but oblivion is only as far as the next season.

For every player who makes the cut to the Indian team there are countless who get left behind on the periphery. Some even skirt with fame only to be reminded brutally that it is transient. Remember Mohit Sharma?

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In 2014, Sharma earned the Purple Cap after becoming the leading wicket taker in the season, soon he was a one-day regular who was also part of an Indian World Cup squad. This season he is a net ball bowler for Gujarat Titans. The game is as ruthless as it is giving.

Rahul Tewatia has hit plenty of sixes in the IPL but the Indian ODI jersey eludes him, Manpreet Gony fizzled and retired, Tirumalasetti Suman who scored 310 runs in the 2010 edition came back the subsequent year to score just sixty odd runs, fading out of memory.

More players remain a one season wonder than those who make the jump. Perhaps they remain content playing the IPL, either the dream has changed or it’s just a job with a salary.

The fickleness of sport has had many a causality but it is also the surplus talent pool that is Indian cricket that allows only the big few to remain comfortable at the top.

The rest are waiting at the heels, one match is all it takes. How Rinku grabs this chance and where he takes it from here will be on him. But in this moment, he deserves all the applause for he has also given a timely reminder of the goodness of the game.