Ind vs Aus 2023-24 – Rinku Singh follows MS Dhoni’s template to make case for full-time position

It’s the first India-Australia T20I in Visakhapatnam and Rinku Singh has his arms spread wide in celebration. With one run required from the final delivery of the match, he deposited Sean Abbott over long-on for a six, sealing India’s highest successful chase in T20Is.

A packed stadium erupted in joy, followed by the no-ball siren going off. Abbott had overstepped, which meant the game was over then and the six would not count. Rinku came to know about it only when he went inside the dressing room and Arshdeep Singh told him. It didn’t bother him, though. Winning the game for his side with an unbeaten 22 off 14 balls, he had proved his mettle irrespective.

As a finisher, Rinku’s strength is a steady head and a calm mind. A strong base with almost no initial movement allows him to deal with every ball as it comes, instead of premeditating. This was on display during the second T20I in Thiruvananthapuram as well. Take the penultimate ball of India’s innings. Nathan Ellis bowled a high full toss from around the wicket. At that stage, most batters are looking to smash the ball as hard as they can. But Rinku stayed still and just opened the face of the bat to steer it between the keeper and short third for four.
In the previous over, he had smashed Abbott for three fours and two sixes, dealing with variations in pace and length with aplomb. In all, Rinku scored 31 not out off nine balls with a strike rate of 344.44. In T20Is involving Full Member nations, only Hardik Pandya (32*) has scored more in a nine-ball innings. At 190 for 3 after 18 overs, India were eyeing 220. Rinku’s knock lifted them to a dew-proof 235 for 4.
Suryakumar Yadav, India’s captain for this series, was also full of praise for Rinku. “When he came out to bat in the first game, we needed about 40 runs from 24 balls [55 from 31],” Suryakumar said. “The composure he showed was brilliant. And the same thing today when asked to bat in the last two overs. He providing that finish reminded us of someone.”
Suryakumar probably had MS Dhoni in mind, but perhaps he didn’t want to put any pressure on the newcomer. So when prodded for a name, he said with a laugh: “Everyone who has done this for India.”

If Rinku indeed reminded Suryakumar of Dhoni, it’s not a coincidence, because he has been following Dhoni’s advice. “I asked Mahi bhai once what he thinks when batting in the last few overs,” Rinku said on the BCCI website after the first T20I. “He said the more you stay calm, the more you try to hit straight, the better it will be. So I follow that now. I try to stay calm, try not to show any reaction, and that has helped me.”

Being an ODI World Cup year, India’s focus until this series was on 50-over cricket. For T20Is, they rested some of their first-choice players regularly. That, in turn, opened up opportunities for some of the fringe players. Rinku is one of them and has probably made the best use of those chances despite batting in the most difficult position in T20 cricket.

Rinku made his T20I debut in August. So far he has played only seven games, and batted just four times. But in those four innings, he has scored 128 runs at a strike rate of 216.94 while getting out once. Among those who have batted from No. 5 to 7 for India since the last T20 World Cup, his strike rate is easily the best.

With Hardik assuming more of an anchor’s role lately, India are searching for their next finisher for the T20 World Cup in June. At the moment, Rinku is the frontrunner.

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