One of the highlights of the IPL 2023 season has been watching Rinku Singh bat out of his skin for Kolkata Knight Riders. Not once, not twice, but multiple times – enough to become the season leading run-scorer for his team.

He always had it in him, as was displayed in the game against Lucknow Super Giants last year where he scored a 15-ball 40. He repeated those heroics against the same opposition with an unbeaten 67 off 33 on Sunday to take the game excruciatingly close. As if the five sixes in five balls in the last over against Gujarat Titans earlier this season wasn’t a crazy enough feat.

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On Saturday at Eden Gardens, he made Kolkata dream again even when they needed 40 off the last two overs. Although LSG prevailed by 1 run and KKR bowed out of the tournament, it doesn’t dull Rinku’s shine this season.

This year, he took his batting several notches higher, scoring 474 runs at an average of 59.25. The record gets better when KKR were chasing, as he scored 305 runs in only seven innings of run-chase, with a 152.50 average, a strike rate of 174.28, and four half-centuries.

Rinku Singh's IPL numbers

Career 31 9 725 67* 36.25 510 142.16 0 4 54 38
2023 14 6 474 67* 59.25 317 149.53 0 4 31 29
2022 7 2 174 42* 34.80 117 148.72 0 0 17 7
2020 1 0 11 11 11.00 11 100.00 0 0 1 0
2019 5 1 37 30 18.50 34 108.82 0 0 1 2
2018 4 0 29 16 7.25 31 93.54 0 0 4 0

Talking about his own blitz throughout the season, the 25-year-old said in the post-match press conference, “Anyone will feel good when the season goes so well. But I’m not thinking on the lines of selection for the Indian team. I will stick to my routine, continue my practice. The name and fame will be there but I’ll just stick to my work.

“My family members are very happy. A lot of things have worked well. When I played that innings last year, people started noticing me. After I hit those five sixes I started getting a lot of respect from the people and now a lot of people recognise me. So it feels good,” he said.

What appears as a cherry on the top is getting the acknowledgement from his peers and legendary cricketers. In an interview with Jio Cinema earlier this season, Virat Kohli referenced Rinku’s exploits to explain how much the game is growing.

He said, “What the youngsters are doing today is amazing to see. Just recently, Rinku Singh hits five Sixes in last five balls which is amazing and something like that never happened. So that transition is happening is great. It is great to see such youngsters coming up.”

Former India head coach Ravi Shastri, on after the performance of the UP batter, said on Star Sports, “Rinku Singh is the hero of Kolkata Knight Riders. His temperament is very strong and gets very comfortable in tough situations. He’s a battle-hardened player. Rinku likes close matches and this ability to do well in crunch situations is what separates this player from others.”

Here are some stats from Rinku’s season:

However, perhaps most heartening for a player is also winning the confidence of his skipper. On multiple occasions, Nitish Rana has lavished praise and expressed his belief in Rinku.

For instance, after the knock against LSG, he said: “I think it feels like all 14 matches I’ve spoken about Rinku. I am personally very happy for him (Rinku) the way the season has gone for him. He is quite close to me and I know how much hard work he has done. I don’t really have words to describe him because the entire country knows what he has done. If he can bat in situations like these, he can do anything.”

After his blitz against Gujarat Titans, Rana had added: “Reporters had asked me the other day, why Rinku does not play a bigger role. If this is his secondary role, then imagine what he can do in a primary role. I do not have words to describe Rinku’s innings.”

Andre Russell said in the post-match presentation after the duo took the side to a win against Punjab Kings: “When you have Rinku at the other end, I’m not worried of taking a single. He said, ‘Russ, what if the ball beats you, should we go for it?’ I said, ‘Yes, sure!’ Because I have confidence in him and the angle coming into him as well is a little easier because the ball was tailing away from me. (Arshdeep) was nailing his yorkers wide. So I’m happy.”

Rana had said: “When he was batting, the entire crowd was chanting ‘Rinku, Rinku’. He has earned that this year. I get goosebumps. I have played here for six years now. Earlier the crowd used to chant ‘Russell, Russell’ and I used to feel good because Russell had done so many things. When the crowd is chanting for Rinku, it makes me very happy.”

Now, having won the confidence of many more and grown in experience and ability to pull off miracles, Rinku is bound to play that primary role for his team in the coming years. With stadiums now cheering his name out loud, it is only befitting.

Here’s a look at some reactions to season Rinku had: