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IPL 2023: Rinku’s memorable heroics and Dayal’s forgettable night show why progress in sports is never linear

It’s not often that a T20 hat-trick is overshadowed, or a 24-ball 63 becomes an afterthought, or a 40-ball 83 in a tall chase, battling oppressive heat and poor form, becomes just a subtext. It’s rarer still to have all three feats in one match and still not have any one of them steal the headline.

But when you are Kolkata Knight Riders and Rinku Singh has just hit 6, 6, 6, 6, 6 to pull off a thrilling three-wicket win against the Gujarat Titans in Ahmedabad, everything else is just part of a perfect symphony building to the crescendo. There was nothing forensic about the way Rinku slayed left-arm pacer Yash Dayal in the last over. And the old-school connoisseurs may even have artistic grumbles with the manner of the finish. But “this match will be remembered for Lord Rinku’s heroics,” declared a visibly elated Venkatesh Iyer after the win.

With 39 needed from eight balls, Rinku first hit Gujarat Titans Impact Player Josh Little for a four and six to make it 29 from six balls.

Umesh Yadav then took a single off the first ball of the 20th over and got off strike. “To be honest, after Rashid took the hat-trick and after looking at the number of runs we needed to win in the last over, I had given up hope,” Iyer said.

Iyer wasn’t wrong in feeling despondent. After all, before last night, the highest any team had managed in the 20th over to win a men’s T20 chase was 26 by Deccan Chargers against KKR in 2009 (target was 21). Rinku had 28 to get off the final five balls here. But Umesh had a word of advice for Rinku as he handed the strike to him. “Bhaiya also told me, ‘laga Rinku, sochiyo mat (hit it, don’t think).”

And so, it was… Dayal bowled three full tosses and two drag-downs and Rinku zoomed from 18 off 16 to 48 off 21 while the GT pacer ended up conceding 69 in four overs, the second-most runs conceded by a bowler in an IPL match.

Dayal was understandably distraught, a misty-eyed youngster down on his haunches with his head in his hands. But he would do well to remember the pain, just to remind himself to not want to experience it again when another such opportunity comes around.

In hindsight, the most telling moment of the evening was of Rinku getting a tight hug from an ecstatic head coach Chandrakant Pandit at one end while Dayal remained sat on the field with his teammates’ hands around his shoulder, at the other. At once these images summed up the wretchedness of sporting failure and reiterated why progress in elite sports can never be linear.

There were countless sub-plots and stories to highlight after Sunday’s humdinger. But above all – there was Rinku.

“Of course, Rinku was there but I didn’t believe that it could happen,” Iyer said. “When the second six happened, [we thought] we can win this game. God always gives these moments to people with a golden heart. Rinku is someone that everyone likes, and I am happy that God has given him this very moment.”

Melodrama has become the norm in this tournament, with last-over finishes leaving players either shell-shocked or celebrating ecstatically around outfields. On Sunday, Rinku delivered a remarkable victory in a match that lurched this way and that. And in doing so etched himself into IPL folklore. Need we say “Rinku Singh, remember the name”? Well, he has made sure we do!



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