“You don’t have to tell anyone that you mop floors at a tuition centre. Just come in the morning, do the cleaning and leave. Nobody will know. But I didn’t like the idea,” Rinku Singh had once narrated his ordeal.
These were his father’s words to a young Rinku before he began playing at Under-16 level for Uttar Pradesh.
The family of seven, which included five sons, found father Khanchand’s meagre income from delivering LPG cylinders door-to-door, insufficient for financial sustenance and most of them had to do odd jobs to make ends meet.
Life, indeed was tough for Rinku and his family.
However, the perseverance kept him going and now he has become a household name after his sensational power hitting in IPL on Sunday night.
“I am not educated enough to fall back on academics. It is only cricket that could have taken me forward and it wasn’t just one of the options but the only option,” his jaws tightened when he spoke to KKR’s official Youtube channel some time back during an interaction.
The stockily-built 25-year-old from Aligarh didn’t just hit his UP teammate Yash Dayal for five consecutive sixes to pull off an incredible IPL win but each and every ball that soared over the ropes at the Narendra Modi Stadium was a statement in itself.
In the last few years, his family has been able to bid poverty good-bye with IPL money but from now, he will enjoy IPL stardom for posterity.
Ian Bishop was on air when Rinku launched into Dayal’s back of the hand slower delivery.
“Rinku Singh, Remember the Name” in Bishop’s voice was something you would love to hear, on a loop.
“My father struggled a lot, I come from a farmer’s family. Every ball that I hit out of the ground was dedicated to the people who sacrificed so much for me,” Rinku said after his match-winning knock.
During the 2021, domestic season, he had sustained a serious knee injury while going for a second run in a game for UP and underwent a surgery. His father was so depressed that he had stopped eating for a few days before he made his father understand that injuries are a part of players’ lives.
That Aligarh boy
Aligarh is considered as a cultural hub of India with the famous Aligarh Muslim University still having its pride of place among country’s elite academic institutes.
It has been a house of intellectuals, poets, social reformers, sportspersons (Major Dhyan Chand and Lala Amarnath) for nearly a-century-and-half-now (148 years).
The biggest link of the city with sport is that it is the birthplace of former India hockey captain Zafar Iqbal.
But Aligarh belongs to Rinku too, whose father would often thrash all his five sons if they tried to give cricket precedence over studies.
“To play proper inter-colony or club matches, you needed to pool in money to buy a leather ball and my father would never give me money. Once I went to play a match in Kanpur and my mother borrowed Rs 1000 from local grocery store to provide for my pocket-money,” Rinku recollected back then.
“Papa se hum paancho bhaiyon ko bahot maar padhi hai (All five brothers have got lot of thrashing from dad). My father was hawker, delivered LPG cylinders and when he wouldn’t be available for the job, we brothers had to fill in and father would sit with a stick till we had delivered,” the UP southpaw said.
Lifting the heavy LPG cylinder requires a lot of strength. Rinku and one of his brothers pillion would often carry the heavy cylinder on their bike and then travel through the bylanes of Aligarh to residential areas and hotels for delivery.
“Hum paancho bhaiyon ne papa ko kaam mein bahot madad kari hain. (All five brothers have helped Papa in his job).” So when did his father finally stop beating him up for ignoring studies and playing cricket.
“There was a tournament called School World Cup being organised by DPS Aligarh and I was adjudged ‘Man of the Tournament’. That was the first time Papa had come to the ground to watch me. I was presented with a motor-bike in front of him. Usdin ke baad unhone kabhie nahi mara (He never raised his hand after that day),” Rinku was seen laughing for the first time during that interaction.
Coming through ranks
He had his share of rejections as he was twice ignored during UPCA’s U-16 trials though he himself admitted that he wasn’t ready for that level at that time.
But by 2012, he was ready and scored 154 on his Vijay Merchant Trophy debut and an innings like that in a BCCI tourney gave him confidence that he can play elite cricket if he works hard.
Within a couple of years, he was in UP U-19 team and in the first year (2014) was directly inducted into UP’s One-day team and never looked back.
Once you start playing competitive cricket, there are certain investments and kit is one of the major ones.
“At least five or six people really helped me in my journey. My childhood coach Masood Amini, Mohammed Zeeshan, who provided me with full kit, including cricket bats, Arjun Singh Fakira, Neel Singh and Swapnil Jain are some people I would always be grateful,” he had said back then.
In the past three years, Rinku has moved his family into their new apartment in the city, the first thing he did with IPL money. He has paid of all outstanding loans of his family.
“Jo dikkate thi saari duur ho gayi, (All problems have been solved),” the happiness was palpable.
Rinku Singh has the talent and ability but after Sunday, it can said safely that he has the heart to own the big stage in most difficult of circumstances.